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Software | Making complex connection calcs simple

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A software package launched to allow engineers to make complex calculations on steel-to-concrete connections could save time and money on civils schemes.

Hilti brought PROFIS Engineering to the market on 1 February following research that identified a need for an overarching solution to help finesse interfaces between the two structural materials.

New Civil Engineer reported in November that almost a third of engineers who regularly designed steel-to-concrete connections struggled because there was no software to design the different elements in one cohesive way.

That was the finding from a survey of 100 civil engineers, reported in more detail in a second article in February. This highlighted that more than half of those polled used a combination of different IT programmes, hand calculations and technical guidelines and approvals to design the different elements of a connection – the anchor, baseplate, welds and stiffeners. Just 6% said they used a single software to design the whole connection.

The software enables engineers to input the parameters of their project and treat a base plate as flexible rather than rigid to understand the precise nature of stresses upon the different elements of a steel-to-concrete connection. This means designs can be reworked virtually at the click of a button, maximising the efficiency of both the process and the finished product.

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Eliminating the need for rafts of hand calculations, or multi-window switching between software packages and spreadsheets, the software makes use of forensic flexible-plate design viable, which can slash the number of man hours and material tonnes required on site.

Essentially the Hilti software aims to bring out the embedded skills of civil engineers by shedding the layers of complexity that often prevent their ultimate potential being realised on construction schemes.

PROFIS Engineering is the latest generation of the successful PROFIS brand, which is already being used in the industry for the last 15 years to ensure the most efficient anchors are specified and installed quickly and with minimal difficulty.

Hilti product manager for technical software across northern Europe Carlos Taborda told New Civil Engineer last March that the firm was working on a fresh version of PROFIS that would “go beyond anchor design for improved workflow and increased productivity”.

A year on, Taborda says this promise has been fulfilled by the PROFIS Engineering suite, which focuses on the calculations to maximise efficiency of connection by using a flexible base plate.

“Most concrete-to-steel designs assume a rigid plate, but in reality there is deformation, and to get the most precise design you need to look at the stresses on all elements of the connection – the anchors, stiffeners, base plate and welds,” he says. “This introduces a complexity that requires detailed analysis.”

Taborda says conforming with Eurocodes makes it “almost mission impossible” to use this flexible-plate method of calculations to come up with the best connection design. He adds that going for all-out flexibility can be too dangerous.

Hilti’s rigorous testing process has come up with a sweet spot where if the increase in anchor forces (compared to the rigid plate) is less than 10% there is no impact on the total failure loads of the connection – and the software will let you know if you go beyond that level.

“Using a rigid design is like saying you’re going on holiday to Spain and picking a budget of £2,000 to make sure you don’t run short,” he says. “But looking in detail at the journey, accommodation and food you could end up with a budget of £1,700 that will cover everything. You are using more precise, accurate, flexible design and that is what this software allows you to do for steel-to-concrete connections.”

Rather than saving Euros, however, you save on material and labour costs – which of course translates into pounds.

“You can end up with a thinner plate and optimal anchors, welds and stiffeners. This will make the plate more flexible and use less material and operative labour time.”

PROFIS Engineering is an intuitive piece of software that allows skilled engineers to input the facts and figures pertinent to their project, select various options using their own judgement, and very quickly see what the impact of their choices is on the design.

Within seconds, the software uses bespoke algorithms to look at everything and analyse stress distribution and deformation. It gives a split-screen view of how a rigid plate would behave and how a flexible one would. If you confirm you are happy with the base plate deformation then the software tells you the extent of deviation from rigidity. If it is above the 10% limit then you can go back and reassess using a mixture of suggestions from the programme and your own expertise.

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It is a process not dissimilar to changing the dates and times of your flights, and the must-haves for your hotel, to see how the cost of a holiday changes.

“Without the software it would take so much longer, and you would have to start from scratch when you realised how far over the deviation limit you were,” says Taborda. “Now you can very quickly change the size, position of anchors, put in more welds, stiffeners, use a thicker plate and so on.”

Hilti says the design time taken for one individual connection is slashed by an average of 50%, give or take depending on the complexity of the calculation. The figure is based on extensive pre-launch real-life testing with several large engineering firms throughout Europe.

Add cloud access which means users can share files and work collaboratively and report print outs that give full and detailed explanations for results, and the implications could be huge.

“Put simply the software reduces steel to concrete design timescales by half,” says Taborda. “And there are additional savings in material and operative time as well as health and safety benefits if you are drilling fewer holes, the benefits for everyone in the supply chain are clear.”

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