Greetings Fellow Engineers,
Let me tell you about an incident just happened to me. We are working on a large project, and it was time to decide which software to use to model the structure. After much debating, we settled on one particular program. It seemed that it had enough features to analyze the structure that we had on our hands. And we could use its results to design various elements of the structure “outside” because it really could not handle a particular aspect of the structure.
Does this sound familiar to you? I’d venture to say that every one of us has been in this situation before. The tools we are using to perform our work nowadays are numerous. They are much more powerful than their older versions from just a short while ago. But, they do have their limitations as well. I think that any engineers that I have talked to at one time or another have wished that there would be a software out there that you could just push one button and it would design everything for you. In my opinion, many software companies claim that their programs can do that, but none of them do.
There are truly a multitude of structural analysis and design softwares on the market. You only need to look at the pages and pages of advertisement in “Modern Steel Construction” magazine, for example, to see the software companies that would market their wares at a convention. Each of the programs can perform some functions better than the others. Many of them have similar capabilities but they all appear to lack a particular feature that you just need for the project. So you consider all the pros and cons, and then decide on one particular software to use for that particular area. In the end, you still have to use a different program to complete the design.
To make matters worse, after spending quite a bit of time building your model, the time comes to perform the analyses. You find to your dismay that the model takes a long time to be analyzed. Not only that, but after you’ve patiently waited for the analysis to be completed, it also takes a long time to perform any task to manipulate the model for review.
Then, time also needs to be spent to figure out an efficient way to export and import data in order to continue with the design of the area of the structure that required different software. We then return to a process that is fraught with potential errors, a process which had originally led us to wish for that all powerful program that could do “everything”.
So what is the moral of the story? It is simply that we are still a long way from having that one program that will allow us to do it all in one package. Secondly, know your tools, and know them well so that you can decide the most efficient way to do your job. Lastly, be prepared to pull out that Excel spreadsheet that you had developed a long time ago to help you through this time crunch once more.
Best regards to all and see you at our monthly meeting.