With the advent of personal computers and other aid tools, many mundane personal and heavy professional tasks have been made much simpler. When talking about structural engineering, personal and enterprise-grade computers and servers have been irreplaceable for years now.
With it came a plethora of engineering software suites and finding the right one is no easy task. Different pieces of software offer different capabilities and advantages over the other. It can be quite subjective or it can depend on the needs and requirements our duties dictate. This software makes modeling and analyzing a lot more efficient and therefore decreases the time and effort needed to get the job done.
There are plenty of different structural elements to take into account such as slabs, openings, foundations, columns, walls, beams, etc. And the fact that different materials and potential geometrical errors are also variables that can make or break a project. Here are some guidelines on how to choose the perfect piece of software for us personally but one that is also optimal for the task ahead.
First things first, we need to know if our piece of software follows the industry trends on analysis capabilities. Which ones are relevant for us and what we do? What vendors are meeting our requirements? The size of our business and projects also dictate the robustness of our piece of software. Some features we may need in the future when we expand our business so thinking a bit ahead can go along way. I
f we are not sure what we might need, we can always check out the industry trends which will give us the general idea. For instance, the 3D printing industry has taken off in an instant in business terms. Partly due to its robustness and versatility, in hindsight, we could have predicted that someday we may need it and design for that process.
A certain degree of flexibility in modern computer-assisted engineering software suites is necessary. This is especially true when it comes to the physical material database. Materials that are used to turn projects into reality are also being engineered every day. The reason is quite simple, materials need to be fine-tuned in order to optimize the performance and reliability of new and daring designs. The so-called additive manufacturing is becoming increasingly important.
Along with it comes a demand for a robust simulation tool that can be used to plan those kinds of endeavors before actually committing. This saves money, time and effort. Also, it minimizes any chances of errors. It is a highly complicated subject and the industry is therefore still in its infancy and is constantly being developed. These tools need to keep up with the demands of being robust, general, extensible and customizable which is no easy task.
Ease of use
User experience is one of those terms that is on every developer’s and marketer’s lips as of late. What it means is that developers are tasked with solving an escalating problem that is complexity. As more features are added the complexity of efficiently using the tool rises. The goal is to create new simulation tools that will simplify future computer-assisted engineering pieces of software and will thus increase the number of simulation users.
Companies are striving towards expanding their finite element analysis tool usage. This will, in turn, reduce the time wasted by the analysis specialists further down the line. This type of software needs to be adapted for the much more numerable designers as opposed to computer-assisted engineer specialists.
Developers are working in conjunction with them to explore additional strategies for designers to use simulation methods and thus streamline the entire process. If the designer is young and inexperienced, he or she needs to be careful about which piece of software to choose. There are plenty to choose from but it can get highly subjective. RISA-3D, Etabs, SAP2000 and Revit software suites with all the different versions and variants are just some of the names in the game.
As the complexity of modern projects increases, we find ourselves more often than not in situations where a workstation simply does not have the horsepower required. There are solutions in the form of high-performance computing and Cloud but they require us to stand back and diverge from more conventional means of computing. High-performance computing will, in theory, help engineers solve simulations faster and will allow for simulations to be more complex. The more intricate a project is, the more computational power it requires. As these server-grade workstations increase in performance so does their price and physical footprint. There is also a theoretical limit to how much power we can fit per cubic amount of space.
There is also the law of diminishing returns that is always present when it comes to our transistor-filled appliances. If our needs have reached those proportions, there is a solution in the form of Cloud computing. All of the benefits of Cloud are applicable to computer-assisted engineering. With the use of the so-called thin clients, powerful datacenters filled with dynamically allocated resources are at our disposal to use. The piece of software we choose needs to be scalable and support these different types of hardware.
The times of giant chalkboards with ladders and pieces of paper spanning the entire office floor are long behind us. The software makes engineering a lot more affordable, time-efficient and safer. If we put enough thought into which piece is right for us personally, professionally and meets all the requirements for a project, we can enjoy all of the benefits it brings.