Modelling a Structural Steel Support

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Modelling a Structural Steel Support

By: Adrian Dunevein

I often have to create structural steel supports for dust collectors or baghouses and at first I spent a lot of time making repetitive structural steel details of the gussets, braces, baseplates, columns and angles.

The shape of the gussets and bracing would basically remain the same, but their dimensions would vary. The sizes of the support columns and the baseplates would change, due to overall changes to height, width and depth of the structural steel support.

Over time I developed a structural steel support model using solidworks 3D design software. The model was driven by a design table. This allowed me to vary the height and depth and column size and other variables, and have solidworks create a complete set of structural steel details for the support including bill of materials. It is certainly a big timesaver. The same model could have been created in Solid Edge, Catia or Autodesk Inventor or whatever 3D modeling software the reader is comfortable with. My preference is solidworks because that is what I am most competent with.

The model also reduces the possibility of error. In the past details had to be copied from assemblies and their dimensions added often on a separate drawing sheet. If the assembly or general arrangement drawing ever got changed, there was a possibility that these changes could be overlooked on the detail sheet. Now with the model, any changes made to it are reflected in the details.

There are limitations. One model cannot be used for all my structural support needs. As the support gets larger, the geometry of the bracing and gussets may need to change and so for that you really need a separate model. Of course, If you have one working model, you just need to add to it and save as a new model for the larger style of structural support.

If anyone else is attempting to automate repetitive structural steel detailing with CAD software, I'd be glad to share my experiences. See my webpage below to keep updated on my work with steel detailing automation.

About The Author

Adrian Dunevein is a mechanical engineering technologist who runs his own drafting and design services company specializing in mechanical design with solidworks 2005.) For more information please visit his website:


NixPhenom 22.08.2008. 23:07

Whats the best way to outsource engineering work for a sheetmetal sculpture model? I need to have the strength of a bent piece of sheet metal analyzed to see the maximum load it can support given some gauge of stainless steel. I would also like some process engineering services to determine the best way to assemble the final sculpture. I would like to know the best and most economical way to contract these services online.


Admin 22.08.2008. 23:07

Search for a structural engineer in your area and give them a call- or email.


shuk84yan 21.04.2008. 03:11

What is the whole process in a shipbuilding? I need to know the whole process in building a barge or a vessel, from starting the work till keel laying, then the launching of the barge/vessel, and lastly the delivery of the barge/vessel. I also need the process in building a Multi-Purpose Offshore Supply/Anchor Handling Tug, from beginning of the work, then the steel cutting, keel lay, launching and lastly the delivery. I will be very grateful whoever answers my question.


Admin 21.04.2008. 03:11

Other than what you already stated?

Design work, also called naval architecture, may be conducted using a ship model basin.

Modern ships, since roughly 1940, have been produced almost exclusively of welded steel. Early welded steel ships used steels with inadequate fracture toughness, which resulted in some ships suffering catastrophic brittle fracture structural cracks. Since roughly 1950, specialized steels such as ABS Steels with good properties for ship construction have been used.

Modern shipbuilding makes considerable use of prefabricated sections; entire multi-deck segments of the hull or superstructure will be built elsewhere in the yard, transported to the building dock or slipway, then lifted into place. This is known as Block Construction. The most modern shipyards pre-install equipment, pipes, electrical cables, and any other components within the blocks, to minimize the effort needed to assemble or install components deep within the hull once it is welded together.

Shipbuilding (which encompasses the shipyards, the marine equipment manufacturers and a large number of service and knowledge providers) is an important and strategic industry in a number of countries around the world. This importance stems from:

The large number of trade persons required directly by the shipyard and also by the supporting industries such as steel mills, engine manufacturers, etc. A nation's need to manufacture and repair its own Navy and vessels that support its primary industries. Historically, the industry has suffered from the absence of global rules and a tendency of (state-supported) over-investment due to the fact that shipyards offer a wide range of technologies, employ a significant number of workers and generate foreign currency income (as the shipbuilding market is dollar-based and a global one). Shipbuilding is therefore an attractive industry for developing nations. Japan used shipbuilding in the 1950s and 1960s to rebuild its industrial structure, Korea made shipbuilding a strategic industry in the 1970s and China is now in the process to repeat these models with large state-supported investments in this industry. As a result the world shipbuilding market suffers from over-capacities, depressed prices (although the industry experienced a price increase in the period 2003?2005 due to strong demand for new ships which was in excess of actual cost increases), low profit margins, trade distortions and wide-spread subsidisation. All efforts to address the problems in the OECD have so far failed, with the 1994 international shipbuilding agreement never entering into force and the 2003?2005 round of negotiations being paused in September 2005 after no agreement was possible.

Where state subsidies have been removed and domestic policies do not provide support, in high cost nations shipbuilding has usually gone into steady, if not rapid, decline. The British shipbuilding industry is one of many examples of this. From a position in the early 1970s where British yards could still build the largest types of sophisticated merchant ships, British shipbuilders today have been reduced to a handful specialising in defence contracts and repair work. In the U.S.A., the Jones Act (which places restrictions on the ships that can be used for moving domestic cargoes) has meant that merchant shipbuilding has continued, but such protection has failed to penalise shipbuilding inefficiencies. The consequence of this is newbuilding contract prices that are far higher than those of any other nation building oceangoing ships.

Thanks to the productivity of its shipyards, South Korea is the world's largest shipbuilding nation in terms of tonnage and numbers of vessels built, in spite of high labour costs. China is currently the third largest shipbuilding country and poised to overtake Japan in the near future.


rollover 27.02.2012. 23:37

Do they make a kit to convert a 4 door chevy tracker into a convertible? The top on my tracker is destroyed(it was rolled) I was thinking about making my 4 door 2000 tracker into a convertible. do they make a kit for the 4 door models? If not could I get a custom one made somewhere? or should i just put a hardtop back on?


Admin 27.02.2012. 23:37

I'm not sure I'd even bother fixing it unless it won't pass inspection the way it sits. If the insurance adjuster totalled it get rid of it and find something else to drive. Any vehicle that's been involved in a collision has been deviated from its OEM tolerances and is basically junk. The steel composition is soft and it will never be the same no matter what you do to it.

Trackers like almost every other modern SUV made today have unibody construction and the roof supports the structural integrity of the vehicle as a whole. If you cut off the top without supporting the undercarriage it's been severely compromised. So, no there is no convertible kit for the 4-door Trackers and they were never even produced.


Cherry 05.03.2012. 21:18

Is foamboard good to use for a earthquake proof house model? I was wondering for my science project.
Its going to be put in a simulator


Admin 05.03.2012. 21:18

Neither good nor bad. This foam is usually an insulator; the components important in quakes are structural members meant to support weight, like steel, bricks, mortar, and cement. Insulation doesn't help support the building.

In a small model, solid foam would scale to some impossibly stiff building material with little "give". To make it work in a realistic way would require attaching massive weight, which would be unrealistic in other ways. Depending on the smallness of your scale, something more like sugar molded with egg whites would give better results.


Mtay612 04.10.2010. 23:29

Were the owners and design engineers held responsible at all for the collapse of the Twin Towers ? If they weren't I want to know why weren't they The planes hit a certain no. of floors but the design flaws caused the buildings to collapse.


Admin 04.10.2010. 23:29

They were designed to the specifications that were required at the time they were built. From watching older documentaries about the buildings, the amount of testing performed far exceeded what was required or expected for that time.

Remember, prior to 9/11, no one had ever considered the effect of a fully loaded jumbo jet being deliberately rammed into a building at full speed. Up until 9/11, the only instance of a plane hitting a building was nearly 60 years ago when a B-42 ran into the Empire State Building. The building obviously survived but that impact was a lot different from 9/11. For one thing the plane was smaller. It was also flying a lot lower - not only because it wasn't a jet, but because it was trying to land. Furthermore, its fuel did not explode, the plane remained intact. The designers repeated the B-42 scenario on models of their buildings several times, even using modern jetliners. In all instances, the tests showed that the buildings would survive.

However, the jetliners used in 9/11 were much larger and heavier. They were also fully loaded with fuel, and were deliberately rammed into the towers at full speed. The terrorists also helped insure maximum damage by flying the planes into the towers partially banked - not flat like the B-42 scenario. While the Empire State Building facade which is built out of bricks with a steel superstructure underneath, the WTC towers only had a very thin facade made mostly of glass held together with thin sheet metal. The entirety of the towers' structural support was from the single, large central column, to which the floors were bolted. The steel making up the structures of the tower and floors was coated with a fire retardant foam. This is why the planes were able to fly into the towers, easily piercing the relatively thin facades. If they had hit an older building, like the Empire State Building, they would have exploded on the surface of the building, not inside it where they would do more damage. The wings hit the edges of the floors, ripping them off and spewing jet fuel over several stories. Then the main fuselage slammed into the central tower, causing sparks, igniting the fuel, and *boom*.

The shrapnel from the exploding plane shredded the protective foam which was partially designed to prevent any fire from heating up the steel too much. The danger wasn't that the steel was going to melt, but that the heat would cause the steel to buckle. The floors, now damaged and being heated by the burning fuel to the point where that's exactly what happened - the metal started to deform, causing the bolts holding up the floors to fail. The floors, now no longer held up by the central tower, fell. The impact from the upper part of the building slamming onto the floor below in turn caused its bolts to fail, and then that larger part then fell onto the next floor down, and so on and so on.

If anything, the buildings performed as designed - they fell straight down and in on themselves, as opposed to toppling over like a tree.

So the architects were not charged. In fact, I think they were among the firms asked to submit a proposal for the replacement .


sister 31.07.2006. 12:25

Can any car be turned into a convertible? Is it possible to have any car proffessionly converted to a soft top, do you remember the old original capri it had a boot rather than a hatchback i have the chance to get hold of one but it needs restoring, not something i can do myself being a girl and all that lol i fancy buying it and getting it restored but think it would look really sexy as a soft top.
Wow so many negative answers thats such a shame i had my heart set on it.
I realise it would expensive but if i get the capri cheap enough would it still be a no go any ball park ideas of what it would cost.
Cant you just picture it top down sprayed shiney red, shiney new alloy wheels you just know its gona look soooo good.
Not to bothered how water tight it would be to be honest i would only drive it in the summer it would just be a toy.


Admin 31.07.2006. 12:25

Modifing a car/truck to be a convertible can be a difficult and time comsuming job. While theoretically it can be done, there are lots of factors that may make this type of conversion unrealistic.

The biggest issue is structural integrity of the vehicle. Many vehicles made after 1980, especially cars and mini-vans, have a unibody construction. What this means is that the body of the car is the main structural component of the vehicle. Previous manufacturing methods had a solid frame of steel that ran from the front to the rear that the other components bolted to. This included the body of the vehicle. Therefore on these non-unibody vehicles, chopping off the roof would not affect the structural integrity due to the underlying frame. You can't just chop the top on a unibody type as this will greatly weaken the structure.

Most late model convertible vehicles have extra structural components that compensate for the missing roof. This not only includes structural bracing, but a re-engineering of the windshield support system, doors and window supports, seat belt supports, etc.

As you can see, chopping a top takes a lot of work, design and engineering. Hope this helps!


Mike the Queen fan 20.09.2009. 15:37

Is there any evidence in favor of 9/11 being an inside job at all? The only evidence I can think of is the fact that the US government found Hussein in three months, but cant find Bin Laden in a 10 year search. But even then, Afghanistan and Pakistan are much larger countries then Iraq.

Mike the Queen fan

Admin 20.09.2009. 15:37

If you take all of the evidence in total - the physical evidence (the most important) along with the eyewitness accounts - it is extremely hard to come up with any kind of cohesive "inside job" scenario. I suppose that is why there are something like 50 different inside job theories floating around out there. If the evidence for them were half-way decent there would only be one inside job theory.

We know airplanes hit the twin towers, the aircraft were larger than what the towers were designed to withstand and we know from computer models and forensic tests the structural failure of the towers was consistent with steel support beams weakened by fire.

Tower 7 fell because when the North Tower fell it gouged a huge chunk out of the front of the building and set the high pressure diesel generator lines on fire. The media had been reporting for 2 hours before it fell that it was going to fall. There is no mystery here.

No mystery about the Pentagon either. Over 130 witnesses saw a plane flying stupid-low towards the Pentagon, around 40 identified it as a passenger jet with many of those identifying the airline! Something like 25 people saw it hit. The plane left a trail of downed road signs and light poles, there is clearly identifiable aircraft wreckage all over the site and computer simulations and forensic tests have shown the damage is absolutely consistent with a jet airliner impact, not a bomb or missile blast.

There is no physical evidence that Flight 93 was shot down. If it was an inside job I don't know how shooting it down even fits. After all, wouldn't the government want the aircraft to complete its mission and hit something in order to complete the plan? A shoot-down doesn't fit. Most of the people claiming it was shot down use fabricated or distorted evidence to make the point. Claiming the engines were found miles away for example when in fact only one engine was found away from the impact point and that just a few hundred yards, down hill and in the direction the plane was travelling. In other words, totally consistent with a crash, not shoot down.

In order to find Bin Laden we would have to be actively looking for him, which we are not. The unit assigned that task was disbanded 3 years ago. Why isn't exactly clear, but the odds of finding him are small at any rate. He keeps an exceptionally low profile and is surrounded by folks who are loyal to him.


lesley 08.03.2007. 02:42

Where can I find out more information about the architecture and history of Taipei 101? Array


Admin 08.03.2007. 02:42

Dear Lesley,
Breathtaking pics...just click on blue links below:

Official name Taipei 101
Alternative names *
Emporis Building Number 100765

Location: "8" Sung-Chih Road
District :.... Xinyi [Hsinyi]
City :..........Taipei
Country :...Taiwan

Technical Data
Height (tip) ......527 m
Height (struct.) 509 m (1,671 ft)
Construction start 2001
Construction end 2004
by: KTRT Joint Venture
Building in General

Architectural style & Design:
C.Y. Lee and Partners INC.
Status:............ completed

News: "Spiderman" Climbs World's Tallest Building
Taipei: French Spiderman, Alain Robert, climbs to the tip of the world's tallest building, Taipei 101, in December 25, 2004. It is part of the week-long celebration for the official opening of the tower in December 31, 2004. He spent approximately four hours to reach the tip at 509m. A safety rope was used as a safety precaustion due to the windy and rainy weather. He also climbed more than 70 skyscrapers around the world.
Click on Taipei 101 link below for more information.

Taipei: On October 9, the uppermost and final spire segment was raised into place on Taipei 101 in Taipei, Taiwan. At 509.2 meters, the 101-storey tower now officially holds the world's tallest building title previously held by Petronas Tower 1 and Petronas Tower 2. The Sears Tower still holds the title of the world's tallest building to the tip of the antenna at 527 meters. Taipei 101 now also holds the highest roof (449 m) and highest occupied floor (439 m) titles.

- Taipei 101 is the world's tallest building, surpassing the height of the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur in late August 2003.
- Taipei 101 holds the world record in three of the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat's height categories: tallest to the structural top, tallest to the roof, and highest occupied floor.
- The outdoor observation deck is the highest in the world. It is expected to be surpassed by the outdoor deck in the Shanghai World Financial Center.
- This was the first world's tallest building completed in the 21st century. The next will most likely be Burj Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
- The 89th floor holds an indoor observation area, and an outdoor observation deck is located on the 91st floor.
- Taipei 101 is the first and currently only building in the world to break the half-kilometer mark in height.
- The highest section of the spire was installed on 9 October 2003. At the official ceremony on 17 October, Taipei's mayor Ma Ying-Jeou fastened a golden bolt to signify the official topping-out.
- Before the spire was installed there was a separate topping-out ceremony on July 1st, 2003 for completion to the roof level. The president of Taiwan and the mayor of Taipei participated in the event.
- An 800-ton tuned mass damper helps stabilize the tower in high winds and earthquakes. This damper is an enormous ball of welded steel plates hanging inside the top of the building, and is visible from the restaurant and bar which encircles the space around the ball.
- The design is inspired by traditional Chinese architecture, with a shape resembling a pagoda. The sectioned tower is also inspired by the bamboo plant, which is a model of strength, resilience, and elegance.
- The tower's design specifications are based on the number "8", a lucky number in traditional Chinese culture; it features 8 upward-flaring sections, and is supported by 8 supercolumns. The Jin Mao Tower in Shanghai also employs this numerology in its design. Also four circular structures at the base of each of the sides represent "coins" i.e. rich profits in Chinese Tradition.
- Most aspects of the design, layout and planning were reviewed and approved by a Feng Shui master.
- The elevators are the fastest in the world, rising at 1008 meters per minute (60.48 km/hour) and descending at 610 m/min (36.6 km/hour). The top speeds are 34 percent faster than the previous world's fastest elevators in Yokohama Landmark Tower.
- This is one of the few buildings in the world equipped with double-deck elevators.
- Each elevator is designed with an aerodynamic body, pressurization and emergency braking systems, and the world's first triple-stage anti-overshooting system. The cost for each elevator is over $US 2 million.
- Exterior construction elevators and the construction elevator shaft were fully disassembled in late February of 2004.
- The Taiwan Stock Exchange rents 7 floors in the building.
- Inside the base of the tower is the large Taipei 101 Mall, which opened before the tower on November 13th, 2003.


juju 18.08.2007. 11:48

in which type of industries a mechanical engineer can work? Array


Admin 18.08.2007. 11:48

You are asking about an ancient engineering field so you there are plenty of choices:

1) Automation and robotics:
There are alot of manufacturing companies out there. Auto makers, aircraft makers, furniture makers, etc. Anybody who uses automation will likely hire a mechanical engineer who specialized in automation.

2) Design and Drafting:
Yes so you learned about Autocad, Catia, Solidworks, Pro-E, you can apply as a design personel. Drawing concepts is something that a mechanical engineering can do. You just have to know how to use the CAD softwares very well.

3) HVAC...this is very cool sometimes very hot occupation for a ME...

4) Sales and techinical support...for a variety of companies...

5) The construction industry is also in need of a ME.

6) Hospitals needs ME for their boilers. Yes there are also ME who works in the biomedical field. Ex: Design of an artificial bone, prosthetics,etc.

7) The government would also hire a ME for a variety of task.

8) The oil industry

9) Power generation

10) Even video games maker are sometimes after a ME to improve the physics and structural design of their games. Ofcourse you also need to know how to perform character modelling for them.

11) The millitary would love to have you in their team. Don't go there...there's alot of other choices.

12) You can also work for the secret service hehehe...testing and who knows what else would they have you do. Actually you can do quality assurance for an agency such as CSA (Canadian Standard Association). This is very fun. You get to break stuff for the sake of science. I said break yes get to hammer, drop, hit, burn, etc. regular consumer items to test if they meet the safety guidelines. Yes it's also my dream to become a member of the CSA or CSIS just so I can do all the cool testing...

13) So you think you're an elite eh? Then why don't you try the aeronautic industry. Yes yes those aerospace engineers are just mechanical engineers who specialized (obsessed) with flying. NASA would be glad to have all the elites of our field.

14) The steel industries...I forgot this...very ancient mechanical engineering work...

15) The mining industries...very good compensation if you can stand the job...

16) Electronics...I think Microsoft needs a team of ME who specialized in fins...if they know what I mean...Well their xbox360 is rumoured to have some heating issues...A young team of ME who knows their fluid/thermo dynamics may ease their grief...

With that said...CSIS...CSA...any chance that you'll take on a wayward ME to join your team? I know I need to work on this so called "english"'s not really my strength but I am a good breaker of stuff.


TheTerminatorFan 06.09.2011. 19:20

Question about building buildings with a steel frame.? They are showing on tv a special on how the new World Trade Center, building 1, is being built. Focusing on the steel and the guys fitting everything together.

Where do builders go to buy all that steel framing? We do not build really tall buildings where I live so most of the steel is cut and welded on the job site. At World Trade Center 1, they seem to get the steel on trucks; already cut and welded.


Admin 06.09.2011. 19:20

The steel is all custom fabricated in what are called " structural steel fabrication shops". Each Building is designed by architects then the frame is designed by engineers to support whatever load is being applied to the building. After the engineering is done it goes out for a bid package where a fab shop estimates how much to charge for the fabrication of the steel and the erection of the steel. Once a company wins the bid, it then has to design how the steel will connect with one another and have it approved by an engineering firm to assure the connections are strong enough. Once all of that happens the fab shop orders raw steel beams and angle iron and steel plate at stock lengths. Beams are then cut into the right length and holes drilled in the proper places. The beam is then marked with a number that tells the erectors where it goes. The steel is then shipped out in batches to the construction site where it is unloaded and "shook out" into an organized place to grab them with a crane. They are then put together like a toy model, there are instructions that say what beam goes where and what size bolt to use. The welding you see being done is on really critical "moments" that need extra strength. That is about how it goes in a nutshell. It is a bit more complicated than that but it gives you an idea.


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