I often have to create structural steel supports for dust collectors or baghouses and at first I spent a lot of time making repetitive structural steel details of the gussets, braces, baseplates, columns and angles.
The shape of the gussets and bracing would basically remain the same, but their dimensions would vary. The sizes of the support columns and the baseplates would change, due to overall changes to height, width and depth of the structural steel support.
Over time I developed a structural steel support model using solidworks 3D design software. The model was driven by a design table. This allowed me to vary the height and depth and column size and other variables, and have solidworks create a complete set of structural steel details for the support including bill of materials. It is certainly a big timesaver. The same model could have been created in Solid Edge, Catia or Autodesk Inventor or whatever 3D modeling software the reader is comfortable with. My preference is solidworks because that is what I am most competent with.
The model also reduces the possibility of error. In the past details had to be copied from assemblies and their dimensions added often on a separate drawing sheet. If the assembly or general arrangement drawing ever got changed, there was a possibility that these changes could be overlooked on the detail sheet. Now with the model, any changes made to it are reflected in the details.
There are limitations. One model cannot be used for all my structural support needs. As the support gets larger, the geometry of the bracing and gussets may need to change and so for that you really need a separate model. Of course, If you have one working model, you just need to add to it and save as a new model for the larger style of structural support.
If anyone else is attempting to automate repetitive structural steel detailing with CAD software, I'd be glad to share my experiences. See my webpage below to keep updated on my work with steel detailing automation.
Short note about the author
Adrian Dunevein is a mechanical engineering technologist who runs his own drafting and design services company specializing in mechanical design with solidworks 2005. For more information please visit his website: http://www.aaadrafting.com/Structural_Steel.html.