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An extra design dimension


3D virtual model analysis can provide contract savings in the region of 1015%, structural contractors are telling computer solutions company CSC.

At some point in the future every construction design company in the country will be using 3D technology', says CSC marketing director Chris George. 'Whether that is in five or 15 years we will be there, ' he adds.

CSC's design model, 3D+, has been on the market for around 18 months. It has been adopted on increasingly high profile projects, such as the 152m high Maitreya Buddha in north east India.

Technicians can quickly draw a single 3D model of a structure, then any number of drawings can simply be taken from that model.

Any changes will automatically update all other drawings, offering major time savings.

In the future, when technology catches up with the vision of CSC, total fluidity of design will be possible. 3D+ Version 4 is due to be launched in October and makes significant strides towards this goal.

Feedback from the industry has led to the introduction of a revision log, which will ensure that a named individual is responsible for each change made to the model, and that all changes made are listed and highlighted on screen.

Version 4 will also be fully compatible with CSC's FASTRAK 5950 meaning a complex multi-storey or portal frame design can be imported to 3D+, allowing 2D drawings to be taken through it any point.

Engineers are typically conservative in nature, though several forward thinking, technologically open companies, such as Arup, Mott MacDonald and Whitby Bird, are already benefiting from the 3D+ program. Now that 3D technology has been taken on and used successfully on projects such as the £229M Norfolk & Norwich General Hospital, engineers are more willing to take the concept on. Arup has placed a large order for further copies following successful experience.

At present the project's architect will produce a 3D visualisation before providing the engineer with a series of 2D drawings. These will then be used for 3D design before 2D drawings are produced and sent to the fabricator who will build a 3D model and send out further 2D drawings before the final manifestation of a 3D structure.

By switching to common 3D model design along the line, generous savings are on offer to all.

Practically all steel fabricators have already adopted 3D working methods and are increasingly demanding 3D models from engineers.

Based entirely on Autocad 2000 to make its adoption as painless as possible, the program has the option of modelling and presenting physical 3D structural elements at the click of a mouse, rather than traditional single lines. The ease and speed of the program needs to be seen to be believed. 'Without training on the product, I loaded a copy on my PC on Monday, by Wednesday I had produced my first model', says a 3D modeller at Laing.

Loading can then be put into the model and the structural integrity analysed. Changing members loads and materials is simple, and alternative member options can be generated. A 3D model can also show the stress distribution throughout the structure, allowing critical elements to be visualised and large potential cost savings to be made.

Costing around £5,000 to acquire, the package contains AutoCAD as standard allowing it to be run as a standalone package. Support costs between £500 and £750 a year and includes any upgrades.

INFOPLUS www. mileendpark. co. uk www. cscworld. com

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