February 01, 2010
Flexible Workflows with Bentley Integrated Structural Modeling
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Susan Smith - Managing Editor

by Susan Smith - Managing Editor
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Industry News
Flexible Workflows with Bentley Integrated Structural Modeling

By Susan Smith

Those who create and consume structural project information may welcome this new release from Bentley. First of all, Bentley Structural has been renamed to Structural Modeler, and in addition, the new announcement includes the free downloads Structural Synchronizer V8i and Structural Dashboard V8i  which are not dependent upon another Bentley software program, said Huw Roberts, global marketing director, Bentley Systems.

According to Gus Bergsma, VP Structural, global sales for Bentley, the primary issues engineers report are that loss adds up to 4% of their cost compared to 2.5% for owners and 69% of industry cites lack of software compatibility as the primary impact to sharing amongst build teams. 

“There are many industry standards for sharing information, there are engineers, architects, mechanical, fabrications, special purpose software, all these products are trying to be linked via various industry data exchange standards with limited success,” explained Bergsma. “The problem gets even deeper into the project with regard to the construction phase of the project – architects and engineers producing design then this information is then being replicated at the construction phase. A great example of that is steel fabrication as well as rebar fabrication and construction. At this point I think the industry is confused, there has been a lot of work done to link these processes and integrate these processes, but in general the industry continues to struggle with where do we go, how do we go.”

Bentley provides software to all these industries and considers that they are positioned to bring these entities together in an integrated and interoperable format.

How it Works

Santanu Das, VP of Structural Software Division for Bentley, said that Bentley’s portfolio addresses each facet of workflow. The company’s solution is a workflow or process which is called Integrated Structural Modeling (rather than creating another file format) which basically has four focal points: Shared repository, tracking revisions and comparison between versions, visual review, and change management.
click to enlarge [ Click to Enlarge ]

What does ISM integrate? ISM integrates the structural workflow which entails structural modeling, structural analysis and design, structural documentation and drafting, detailing and fabrication.

“ISM is not a Bentley technology just for integrating Bentley products; we’re very open to third party apps such as Revit as well as industry standards,” said Das.

Structural Synchronizer V8i and Structural Dashboard V8i are both free applications that make it possible for structural engineers to employ ISM in their integrated projects. Both can be downloaded free from www.bentley.com/getISM  Another free component is the plug-in for Revit and all three support the Revit workflow.
click to enlarge [ Click to Enlarge ]

An example given of ISM is as follows: An architect has chosen to start in Revit Architecture to build a building model. Using the ISM process, through a very simple plug-in, the architect can simply push a button and export out an ISM repository and then bring it into any Bentley product. “In this particular case we’re going to bring it into Bentley RAM Elements which is a 3D analysis tool which is perfect for doing small office buildings, masonry, walls, etc. from within RAM Elements,” said Das. “it may be possible that the engineer wants to do a full detailed analysis of the slab of the concrete building. There are apps Bentley can provide for that, in this case we have RAM Concept choices in the concrete slab.”

All the data is from a Revit Architecture model but is being coordinated and positioned in ISM.  After RAM Concept the engineer may want to take it to a draftsperson who may want to cut out a lot of drawings they may not want to share with detailers. Another app called Structural Modeler can read all the results that have started with Revit Architecture, that are floated to all the apps like RAM element and Concept and do all drawings automatically from the same file.
click to enlarge [ Click to Enlarge ]

As this has been going on, all of the coordination has been tracked, i.e., changes in Revit, RAM Concept, etc. will go back to the ISM repository which will then be able to manage all the changes so that all of the apps know what exactly has happened. If the user wants to go out to a PDF file or even go back to the architect to exchange a Revit file it can be done through ISM.

Structural Synchronizer can do storage, coordination, review , and revision history. It sustains the current workflow, provides an open API so third party vendors can integrate with the ISM workflow.

Open System

Structural Dashboard allows the engineer to manage all data as well to be able to gather all the different components he needs for certain processes, all within one interface. The structural dashboard integrates all the products needed for a particular type of workflow if a user is working on plants, buildings, etc. and aggregates all the information through one interface.

If the user has a common project type, Dashboard can manage the apps that comprise that workflow as well as the data behind them. It’s a unified interface, “you don’t have to go and search through the different products, they’re there in one portal. You can create your own workflow,” said Das.

Whether applications are up to date, or if there are any bugs in them and if there are any optimization techniques are provided through RSS Feeds in the Dashboard. Online community, wiki, and blogs can also be accessed. Product upgrades are given at all times, and the app can manage project files and links within workflows.

ISM is extending interoperability to provide a managed workflow environment that is dynamic.

For those who are not currently using Bentley software, there are definite advantages in the Dashboard’s workflow capabilities as well as using the Synchronizer to view and navigate query models. 

In comparison, Bentley’s new iModel is an enabling technology and the company's integration platform. Bentley has created this as its underlying interoperability framework which allows them to create a lot of types of derivative products. ISM and iModel both come from that basic foundation.

According to Roberts, “ISM is really a process, like a managed workflow where you can have different apps, not just Bentley apps, but it allows you to exchange information dynamically and lets you see what the changes are.”

An iModel is one level down in interoperability from an ISM – basically it allows the user to take a snapshot of their data and exchange data again from app to app, without the ability to make any changes in their model.

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