FEM logo

Why hand calculations are necessary in structural engineering.

The engineering world of today asks for people and software that can cope with big amounts of data.

It may sound strange, but FEM Data Streamliner, developer of software for structural engineers, is convinced that calculations by hand are absolutely necessary to check the strength of structures. According to a study of FEM Data Streamliner, 40 percent of the people in the field of structural engineering in The Netherlands, don’t do calculations by hand.

How do you do structuratal calculations?

In the survey, 60 percent answered that they do calculations by hand to check the strength of structures. The vast majority answers that this is in combination with software calculations. It means that 40 percent don’t do calculations by hand and only rely on software. “This is a number that both surprises and worries me”, Edgar Peetam, FEM specialist and developer of FEM Data Streamliner, says. “I think that the strength of every structure should be checked by hand, of course in combination with software calculations.”

FEM Data Streamlines can be used in addition to software that checks structures using the Finite Element Method (FEM). The add on makes it possible to compare structures with the strength requirements as laid down in the standards provided by major certification authorities such as DNV and ABS.

Hand calculation tool

“The software of FEM Data Streamlines comes with a quick hand calculation tool and a FE model plug-in, known as the Panel Structure Check. “The hand calculator is ideal for concept engineering”, Peetam says. He explains what it can be used for: “In first instance an engineer often doesn’t know what the most optimal size of a stiffener or girder for the structure is. Now he doesn’t have to know because it is unnecessary to have these stiffeners and girders defined in detail in the first FE model. Now the Panel Structure Check takes care of it, which makes it possible to iterate very quickly. When the stiffeners are finally chosen these stiffener or girder elements can be added to the FE model.”

Drill rig picture

Faster and better

“The mission of FEM Data Streamliner is to make the work of structural engineers more streamlined, which make them work more efficient . Peetam: “The work of structural engineers can never be replaced by software. Calculations by hand will always be needed. You will need human expertise to check if the findings of a software model are correct. It is our mission to make structural engineers more efficient. That can only be achieved if we give them the opportunity to focus on the things they’re good at. With FEM Data Streamliner we want to add a tool to the toolbox of engineers and support them with their work. With good software, projects can be done faster, but also on a higher quality level. For example: too often Excel sheets are used. One wrong formula in a cell, and you’ll end up with errors in the results that are almost impossible to straighten out.”


“There is no such thing as software without errors”, Peetam continues. “Therefore high skilled engineers are needed. Today, but also in the future. I notice that in some areas of the world an increased number of engineers has only learned the trick of pushing the right buttons. They have little knowledge about structures, they only know how to work with the software. This is not a good development.”

Peetam claims that human knowledge even becomes more important. “Everyone in the field knows that the trend is that elements, within finite element models, are getting smaller in size and because of that their number increases, sometimes even up to a million. Engineers will get huge amounts of data as output, up to several gigabytes. Without expertise you can’t handle that amount of data.”

The survey of FEM Data Streamliner shows the development of calculations getting more complicated. Two thirds of the respondents answer that the average number of load cases per project that they have to calculate is more than ten. “I can remember a time when even a particular structure of a Fokker-airplane was designed for only two load cases”, Peetam says. “The engineering world of today asks for people and software that can cope with big amounts of data.”


FEM Data Streamliner is developed by engineers working in the field of offshore, marine and heavy mechanical industry, together with IT-specialists. Peetam: “You can tell when software is developed by IT-people without field experience. At FEM Data Streamliner we know what the working field of a structural engineer looks like. I think that in the situation we are in today, it is crucial to connect the world of construction with the world of IT.”

Previous articles

Need for better and faster strength analysis of structures.

Code checkers needed in structural engineering.

How plate buckling standards of DNV and ABS differ.

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.

Reactions, please respond below:

Your e-mail address:

Your name:


Your response