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Design | Perfecting the steel/concrete interface

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Getting the right connections between steel and concrete elements is a critical part of many major projects. But designing and specifying the correct anchor can be a time consuming process.

Hilti’s PROFIS software is designed to ensure the most efficient anchors are specified and installed quickly and with minimal difficulty.

Bury-based steel specialist William Hare often uses the package to handle interfaces between existing concrete structures and new steel members.

“The software speeds up the design process for an anchor to under five minutes, compared with a number of hours if you had to do it manually,” says William Hare engineering office manager Ashley Whittam.

The software can be called upon at various stages of design or construction. With its easy-to-use interface, it guides the user through the process of selecting the right product for the job in question.

“It could be a problem that comes up on a drawing, or on site where speed is often essential,” says Whittam. “You quickly build up a picture view on the software, apply the loads and the software tells you the most suitable product to use.”

A large chunk of the time savings come from using the power of technology to narrow down the specification process.

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Ashley Whittam

Whittam: ”If you didn’t use the software, and got the wrong solution, the anchor could fail”

“If you imagine the Hilti catalogue being like a telephone directory, you don’t want to search from page one all the way through,” says Whittam. “We use the software, push a button and it tells us the solution we need is on page 3,000.”

Another important asset of the software is the reassurance it gives of compliance with European Technical Approval Guidelines (ETAGs) and European Assessment Documents (EADs).


Profis screen shot

PROFIS software gives users confidence about compliance

“Unless you’re using these codes day-in, day-out, they are difficult to understand,” says Whittam. “If you didn’t use the software, and got the wrong solution, the anchor could fail.”

PROFIS allows the user to guide the selection process; you can alter various parameters and see immediately what the impact would be on a chosen anchor. You can also see how much of a product’s capability is being utilised, to ensure you choose the most efficient solution.

Once the user is happy with the overall solution, the software provides a printable document with various levels of information for different parties.

Software for designers

PROFIS software is primarily used by our designers,” says Whittam. “It produces a calculation to go to the client for approval and installation information that gets passed to site.”

Even beyond this, Hilti continues to use its expertise and coverage to guide project teams.

“Hilti is good at supporting the site guys to ensure the design is installed to the right parameters,” says Whittam. “You can print out the installation guide, which may be one page out of the 10-page design calculation.

“There is also access to videos and how-to knowledge available on the Hilti website that can give you almost one-to-one support if you are on a remote site.”

Field engineer help

Often Hilti will send out a field engineer to guide the physical delivery of a design specified through PROFIS.

Hilti product manager for technical software across northern Europe Carlos Taborda, says customer relations are important to get the most from the software.

“We have a direct sales force as well as field engineers who help customers with technical issues,” he says. “An engineer can ask us questions about the outcomes of the software and we work with them to get the best solution on site.”

A general engineering knowledge is important to be able to use the software, but it saves labour-intensive calculations to comply with codes and approvals.

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Carlos Taborda

Taborda: Sales force and field engineers offer client support

“You need an understanding of what’s going on, but if you put the right values in, then the software will do the work for you,” says Taborda. “Of course, rubbish in, rubbish out.”

Assuming a basic engineering ability, working with the software is akin to using familiar programmes or comparison websites.

“You put in the shape of the base plate, the loading and the dimensions, and the software will tell you what is and isn’t working,” says Taborda. “Then you can change the parameters as you like, to get to a solution you are happy with. When you get all green ticks you know it’s working.”

Anything that is not working for a particular anchor is highlighted in red.

“If you select a different anchor or different conditions, then you get different results,” says Taborda. “But every little change – made at a click of the mouse – would take hours of calculations otherwise.”

Back up reports

As well as showing the final design and providing an installation guide, the PROFIS software produces a report on the evidence it has used to get there.

“This is everything you need to show compliance with the codes and the calculations to show engineers why you’re using this design,” says Taborda.

PROFIS can be set to comply with design codes in different parts of the world.

“One of the advantages is you can use European codes or American or South African codes and others.

Two way relationship

PROFIS only includes Hilti anchors in its menu but the relationship between the software and the products is two-way.

“People may like to use Hilti anchors, and so come to the PROFIS software for specification, or it may be the other way round,” says Taborda.

The software can be used to deal with changes or difficulties on site, and is also helpful in finalising designs that have been left open.

“It could be that the designer leaves the exact specification of the connection open and the contractor has to ask its own design office to do this, or subcontract this work,” says Taborda.

Software speed up

“Sometimes it’s needed insitu that week. Our software speeds up the process.”

He likens the software to that used in everyday life to smooth administrative tasks.

“Imagine going on holiday 20 years ago; you had to visit different agents and get different printed quotes over a period of weeks then sit down and compare them – now you just go on your phone and use an app.

“That’s what we’re trying to do for anchor design.”

“We are already working on the next generation of PROFIS, which will include functionalities that go beyond the anchor design for improved workflow and increased productivity.”

This feature was produced in association with and support from

Hilti logo cmyk 2014


Ashley Whittam, engineering office manager


Readers' comments (2)

  • Doubtless, software design of fixings provides a fast approach with much flexibility and hopefully a good result. However I am still puzzled by the way we have produced complicated design codes that make simple design almost impossible without extensive software use and a degree of specialisation beyond what I consider healthy. The result is, perversely, design by numbers with less attention paid to engineering feel and the ability to design across a range of materials and situations. My early design experience was gained just before desktop PCs became available, so I had to understand the codes and the maths of the calculations. This meant I got a good mathematical feel for what was happening, though I realise that this was often empirical rather than deeply theoretical. Now I find that new designers often feel unable to design anything without having undergone some software training and then can only give an answer by using that software; the ability to do a preliminary hand calc has dissapeared. I wonder how we can maintain that section of our design workforce who have a good feel for design rather than just accepting the anodyne results from an abstract piece of software? There isn’t time often to coach this in the design office due to constraints of programme and billability.

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  • I agree with Mike Hann, and I would add that the problem will only get worse, with spreadsheets to be replaced by solutions produced by AI backed software.

    If this software can be so simple that a site engineer can re-run it for slightly different setting out, then that could be useful; but as we have seen from the Florida bridge collapse, checking is always required.

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