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Code checkers needed in structural engineering.

FEM Data Streamliner: “Structural engineers and their managers are unaware of the benefits of code checkers in software”.

Code checkers are still relatively unknown in the field of structural engineering. More than half (52%) of the people working in this field in The Netherlands don’t use code checkers in their software to check if structures meet the strength requirements of certification authorities. This is one of the results of a study organized by FEM Data Streamliner. 36 leading analysts, calculators, constructors and managers in the field of structural engineering have been interviewed.

Circle diagram showing the percentage of structural engineers using code checkers

Edgar Peetam, FEM specialist and developer of FEM Data Streamliner, is not surprised by this result. “Most of the time structural engineers and their management don’t know about the existence of code checkers that support the pre and post processing phase of a FE model. Or they are unaware of the benefits.”

Ideal world

Christiaan Vergouwe, technical consultant at Dutch offshore consultancy firm SeaOwls B.V., is aware of the benefits of code checkers. He is specialized in structural design and verification for concept and basic design, engineering of mobile offshore units and troubleshooting structural challenges. “I use software I have developed myself”, he explains. “It is important for me. Most software only checks the strength and stiffness with Finite Element Method (FEM). Most of the FEM-models act as if there is an ideal world with flat surfaces and straight stiffeners. That doesn’t reflect reality.” Regular FEM-sotware doesn’t take factors such as product built-in tolerances, influences on material properties, environmental influences on the construction and the type of profiles used in the construction into account. Vergouwe: “And when it does, the calculations are going to be extremely complex and will take several days. Therefore it is important to have add-on software that is compatible with the major FEM-software licences.”

Self-developed code checkers

Peetam explains: “After building an FE-model and using it to analyse strength and stiffness, you need to know whether or not your structure meets the requirements of certification authorities, like DNV and ABS, and the standards such as ISO, Eurocode, API and AISC. These standards do take into account that the real situation is not an ideal world.” Newly developed software contains the strength requirements as laid down in standards provided by these major certification authorities. According to the study of FEM Data Streamliner, 48% of people working in the field of structural engineering is using this kind of software. Peetam: “I know that some of them have developed their own code checkers. I think it is far from ideal that structural engineers have to use there valuable time to develop software. At FEM Data Streamliner we want to make structural engineers more efficient. To achieve that, we have to give them the opportunity to focus on the things they’re good at.”

figure showing 'approved stamp'

Save time

Vergouwe is one of the people that works with self-developed software. “But I agree that that is not an ideal situation. The add-on I have developed is good, but there is definitely room for improvement. It is not my core business. And of course I would rather focus on my actual job: design and verification. I have seen test versions of FEM Data Streamliner and I am definitely interested to invest in an add-on like that. I think it can be important for the industry. It can save the time of doing repetitive work.” While Peetam doesn’t want structural engineers having to spend their time on developing software, he claims that it is important that software for structural engineers is developed by people from within this field. FEM Data Streamliner is developed by engineers together with IT-specialists. Peetam: “We want to connect the world of construction with the world of IT, because, today, those two worlds are too far apart.”

Popular standards

The study of FEM Data Streamliner also gives insight in the certification standards structural engineers in The Netherlands are dealing with. Two thirds are using the DNVRP-C201 standard for certifications. This standard is used in all fields: offshore industry, maritime industry, crane construction and heavy mechanics. Other often used standards are DIN-EN-1993-1 (Eurocode 3) (48%), ABS Buckling Guide (36%) and API-RP-2A WSD (36%). “DNV has become the most important certification authority in Europe”, Peetam says. “The results confirm this. Globally, ABS is the biggest player. It is important that code checkers in software involve all of the commonly used standards.” Vergouwe: “I have worked with all the major standards. Each project requires something else. ABS and DNV are definitely the most important ones. A complete add-on on FEM-software with code checkers that involve the standards of all the major authorities would be extremely helpful and safe valuable time.”

Safety of structures

The importance of certifications differs per industry, Peetam knows. “In the maritime industry there is the obligation that a certification authority does an objective check. But if you look at the construction of buildings, it just depends on the engineering company whether or not an objective check is made.” Peetam explains that also for the safety of structures, it is important that structural engineers have software with code checkers available. “Certification agencies often develop their own software and sometimes the same software is also used by engineers. That is obviously not a good situation, because no software is without errors. If engineers and certification authorities both use the same software, there is chance that they both make the same mistakes.”

Previous articles

Need for better and faster strength analysis of structures.

About the study

The study was organized by FEM Data Streamliner and executed by Nasano Management in May 2016. 36 experts in the field of structural engineering had an extensive interview in which they were asked about important subjects in their field. The questioned engineers work in offshore industry, marine industry, crane construction and heavy mechanics. 31% of the interviewees is an analyst or calculator. Others hold positions as team leader (28%), constructor (19%) and project leader (17%).

About FEM Data Streamliner

FEM Data Streamliner is an independent engineering company that offers appropriate solutions for clients to check whether their structural designs are in accordance with the general accepted standards of today. They can do this for their customers, but customers can also choose to perform the check by themselves using the software FEM Data Streamliner can license to them. More information: www.femds.com.

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