Precise & Detailed: Drafting with Advance Steel


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Image courtesy of Steel Precision Group

Beginning With the Right Tools

Steel Precision Group is a structural steel detailing company based in Sydney, New South Wales. As a steel detailing company, they provide a specialised service for their clients in the steel industry, primarily working with structural steel fabricators, though, on occasion, working directly with builders.

Whoever their client may be, the task they undertake is the same: drafting structural steel workshop drawings and related documentation, showing the exact properties of every component a structure will use. These ultra-specific diagrams allow fabricators to undertake their projects with confidence. A robust and dependable set of tools and software is paramount to a healthy workflow.

Steel Precision Group made the switch to Autodesk Advance Steel as their modelling software last year. Six months ago, they added Autodesk Revit and Navisworks Manage to their digital tool kit. The journey began as a simple matter of compatibility.

Stair and platform extension to existing structure modeled in Advance Steel by Steel Precision Group.

Jim Kennett¸ Senior Drafts Person from Steel Precision Group revealed how Autodesk’s AEC Collection, and Advance Steel in particular, helps to keep things running like a well-oiled machine. Making the switch was an easy one, with Jim saying, “Revit is used by the majority of the design consultants we work with and DWG is the most popular design format in our local industry. We initially purchased Advance Steel because it is compatible with both Revit and the DWG format.”

In this line of work, the right file type is critical to completing the job. If their clients are unable to share their designs with the steel detailers, Steel Precision Group isn’t able to input the connections, measurements, or any other details. And if their clients are unable to view the files Steel Precision sends back, things aren’t getting built.

The Devil is in the Detail

Steel Precision Group’s scope is small and precise, the fundamental details of a steel structure’s composite parts. They provide a high-tech instruction manual to assist in the fabrication of steel structures. To ensure success, their structural steel workshop drawings require an extremely precise level of detail. Every day, the company presides over the big picture designs to make sure every angle, beam, bolt and joist is accounted for in the shop drawings they provide for their clients.

It’s an exacting job where “a small change in the design can often result in significant rework for detailers,” says Jim. It requires patience, exactness, a fine eye for detail, and, above all else, tools and software you can rely on.

How the AEC Collection Brings Designs to Life

What began as a pragmatic business decision has become a fundamental part of daily workflow at Steel Precision Group. The AEC Collection helps across all of their CAD-related needs. They use Autodesk’s Advance Steel for steel detailing drawings, and Revit and Naviswork Manage to handle file conversions, review drafting and facilitate communication with clients.

Jim describes how the detailing company gets it done, where every job begins with a design sent from their clients. “Typically, we insert 2D design drawings into our models as external references. We use Revit to import structural engineers’ Revit models into Advance Steel if available. Once connections have been added in Advance Steel, we can export the models back into Revit for the structural engineers to review.” According to Jim, this has sped up the approval process significantly.

What if the client is using some other software or if someone on the project doesn’t use the AEC Collection? Easy. The team uses Navisworks Manage to convert both the models to NWD file format so they can be reviewed by other parties on the project that do not have either Advance Steel or Revit software.

Steel structure modeled by Steel Precision Group with Advance Steel.

‘Steeling’ the Show

When asked to choose a favourite application from the AEC Collection, Jim from Steel Precision Group doesn’t hesitate: “The main product we use from the AEC Collection is Advance Steel.” In Jim’s opinion, it’s the steel modelling software that steals the show. “It has all the features we consider mandatory for structural steel detailing.” In fact, there are too many pivotal features to mention, though he is especially fond of the automatic updating of 2D details when the model is revised, the Advance Steel/Revit interoperability, and creation of files for Zeman robotics.

Highlighting the feature that first drew them to the Autodesk product, Jim again attests to the critical importance of the interoperability. As they had hoped, it has proven very beneficial for both modelling and approval processes. Built-in file compatibility translates to faster turnaround, which in turn translates to increased business opportunities.

A structural steel model of a large-scale warehouse produced by Steel Precision Group using Advance Steel.

With the steel design and fabrication industry’s reliance on CAD software, the interoperability of Autodesk’s programs have proven essential to expediting workflow. Many of Steel Precision Group’s contracts start with designs made in Revit, which they can easily convert into Advance Steel files and back out again. In fact, this initial selling point has proven more useful than the Group ever would have anticipated.

The Weight of the World

Steel Precision Group is currently using Advance Steel to model and produce the shop drawings for a project consisting of over 1,000 tonnes of structural steel. “The geometry is not complex, but the logistics are” Jim says modestly.

Perhaps the task isn’t the most complex, but the idea of all that steel makes one aware of their own relative size and makes one wonder just how incredibly large a complex task must be. It brings to fore the necessity of being able to collaborate across formats and communicate seamlessly without fear of transpositions or errors. With more than 1,000 tonnes resting on the small, precise details, they can now avoid losing anything in translation.

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