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Leveraging 3D Information in the Field: How Can Erectors Benefit?

Leveraging 3D Information in the Field: How Can Erectors Benefit?

Leveraging 3D Information in the Field: How Can Erectors Benefit?
By James Schwartz

Note: This article, written by Design Data's James Schwartz, originally appeared in the Fall 2016 Issue of SEAA Connector.

Digital 3D models are becoming a primary method of communication between disciplines within the construction industry. While fabricators have been using them to produce shop drawings and CNC data since the 80’s, new disciplines — such as the BIM coordinator — have emerged in the industry. The advancement of GPS and advent of drones brings us to the next logical step: the use of models for procurement, planning and construction on the site.

So what are the benefits of utilizing the 3D models for site planning?

One issue for the site is having current up-to-date documentation, especially where construction drawings are concerned. The advantage of having the fabrication 3D model, is what you see is what was fabricated. The CNC data used to run the fabrication machinery comes from the 3D model. An out-of-date model would be a very costly affair, so accuracy is of the utmost importance. 2D drawings can also be directly linked to the model for further investigation, without having to forage through piles of documentation.

Many of us are visual, especially those on the site. If we can see it we can build it. The ability to quickly visualize a connection — without having to interpret to 3D from a combination of 2D drawings — will reduce, if not eliminate, errors and confusion. The model will allow for better communication between people and execution of the plan.

Image courtesy of Virtual Steel Technologies

“The model eliminates all communication breakdown about the plan. Everyone is able to sit in one room and fly through the model, looking at possible issues and what sections could potentially be pre-assembled. Anytime there is a question about a connection, we are able to answer our own questions through the model or write RFIs, which are easier for the engineer to understand by using model shots,” said a project manager with The Boldt Company

The data and tools to extract that data provided in the fabricators digital model, permits on-demand reports, such as bolt summaries and point-to-point lists, or members that require non-default bolt types and diameters. There is the ability to determine accurate weights and center of gravity for single or assembled lifts, and tools to locate that “needle in a haystack” member, or quickly determine where all the batched members are to be placed. It also eliminates the guesswork on which members were shop assembled by the fabricator.

Simplification of the creation of work packages or project staging, to nail down the steel erection sequencing, allows you to maximize an early start, and results in a smoother and quicker process. Other benefits include the ability to quickly create pre-assembly and erection set lists which are given to the FM to assist in pulling steel from the laydown. A visual aid of what each activity in the schedule is helps all office personnel and the owner understand the plan.

A common issue is getting steel to the site in a timely manner, or missing steel at the site. A model with fabrication and shipping data set can give you not only a quick visual of what the status of members are, but will assist you to communicate your current need and future needs more efficiently.

Using the crane capabilities within a modeling product will permit you generate the information required to be in compliance with codes — for example, generating placement drawings, and critical lift and defining lift documentation. In some cases, erectors have even won the bid by using the 3D model and crane packages.

Completed portions of the structure can be set as erected, and reports or color coded 3D PDF model data can be sent to concerned parties. This data can also be sent back to the fabricator to have their model automatically updated.

As one erector who has implemented the fabricators 3D digital model into their work processes stated, “It appears to be unlimited benefits, which we have only begun to see.”