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Beyond Beams and Columns: Marine Fenders Showcase Steel Detailing Company’s Versatility with SDS2

When you think of steel structures, the first thing you picture is probably beams and columns, along with braces or joists, stairs, or rails. But not every project has even these basic features. Some, like the award-winning “dolphin fenders” project by LiNQ LLC, are entirely different creations.  

Winner of the 2023 SDS2 Solid Steel Award in the industrial category, the dolphin fenders project featured a set of marine structures installed in a bay of the Fraser River in Richmond, British Columbia, south of Vancouver. Comprised of cylindrical steel pilings and curved, plate-assembled “fenders,” the structures are placed in the river to prevent collisions between docking ferries and the surrounding banks and docks.   

Equipped with the latest release of SDS2, the steel detailers at LiNQ were able to find creative ways to handle the many unique challenges this project presented from initial modeling through revisions.  


Expanding possibilities with steel

LiNQ is a relatively new detailing company, having started around five years ago. Headquartered in Texas with an office in India, they have so far specialized in educational buildings, apartments, pipe support structures, commercial buildings and industrial facilities but are looking to continue expanding their repertoire. This project was the perfect showcase of their versatile abilities.  

At first glance, the structures seem fairly simple, with two basic parts: the cylindrical pile and the mounted fender. A closer look reveals just how complex the project was, with many custom materials, unique connections, and specialized design considerations for the marine environment.  

According to the project coordinator at LiNQ, completing the project in 3D was the team’s top priority. “I knew that would help with identifying and visualizing problems in the field,” they said.  


The fenders – detailing intricate plate assemblies

Measuring around 18 feet wide and 30 to 35 feet tall, the fenders were made almost completely of plate assemblies of variable thicknesses with numerous cuts, copes, and bends. The fenders had to be designed so that water could pass through properly, without creating any additional pressure points on the structure.  

LiNQ estimated that each fender required around 100 individual pieces of steel, with many small pieces arranged inside the larger outer plates.   

“Functions such as fit exact, cut layout, hole group move, and the material generation controls in SDS2 were crucial,” LiNQ said. 

An inside look at the intricate plate assemblies that make up the fenders. Model by LiNQ LLC. Rendered in Blender by SDS2.


The steel piles and many attachments 

The fenders were attached to steel piles, which served to anchor the structures to the riverbed. They stood between 40 and 45 feet tall and spanned over six feet in diameter. Although the specifications were non-standard, LiNQ was able to easily create a customized pipe size to accurately model the piles using SDS2’s shape properties.  

While the piles themselves were relatively straightforward, they provided the foundation for many complex elements and connection points unique to the marine environment.  

The fenders were attached to the piles with a variety of shear chain lugs, tension chain lugs, and weight or uplift chain lugs—all unique connections designed to transfer and distribute forces between fender and pile and ensure they remain connected when sustaining impact from docking vessels.  

Also attached to each pile was a ladder that would extend from a platform on top of the piles to below the water line. Special design considerations, such as the use of plate abutments, were made to eliminate welding and touch-up coatings, streamlining both the detailing process and long-term maintenance.  

In detailing the ladder and its connection points, LiNQ especially noted SDS2’s help in creating countersink holes for bolts to avoid abrasions with the pile material.  


Some of the unique chain lug connections between the fender and the pile. Model by LiNQ LLC. Rendered in Blender by SDS2. 


Managing revisions

Given the many unique and intricate details of this project that required manual modeling and custom materials, you might imagine that any revisions would be extra tedious and time-consuming. However, the LiNQ team was able to streamline revisions and design changes with the help of SDS2.  

They completed the job in SDS2 2023, the latest version available at the time, which LiNQ said was a “tremendous update.” For this project in particular, the ability to save material operations for cut layouts and fit operations was a real game changer, especially when so much of the project was taken up with modeling unique plate pieces. Rather than having to completely remodel every affected piece, the team was able to make quick and easy modifications to the material when revisions came in—whether they be for additional cuts, modified plate thickness, or other changes.  

It saved the team not only detailing time, but also communication time. “We didn’t have to worry whether this detailer knew about these changes,” LiNQ said. “Once it’s updated in the model, that’s the thumbs up we give to the detailer to run their checks and create the drawings.” 

They also found helpful options to minimize rework when revisions came through after fabrication drawings had been complete—for example, when they were asked to add “weep holes” for pressure testing.  

“SDS2's collaborative environment facilitated seamless communication and coordination within our team,” LiNQ said. “Design changes, alterations, and updates were easily shared and tracked among team members, ensuring everyone remained aligned with the latest project developments.”