Steel connection design is a major pain point for structural engineers, fabricators, and detailers alike. Chronically overlooked, oversimplified, or overdesigned by engineers, connections are one of the largest factors in determining labor costs for fabricators and erectors. Few structural elements cause so many RFIs or more expensive errors in the shop and field.
SDS2 2022 introduced a new feature to facilitate better communication on connections—and ultimately support better connections that satisfy all project stakeholders.
Our new “connection cubes” give you a new way to leverage SDS2’s well-established connection design intelligence, with easily generated comprehensive reports that will streamline design decisions and RFIs throughout the project.
But what exactly are connection cubes, and how can you use them to improve your project workflows? Below we’ll take a closer look at the latest innovation by SDS2.
What are connection cubes?
Connection cubes are model objects in SDS2 that include user-selected member ends and connection components within a structural node or joint. They are used to generate comprehensive and customizable reports that can encompass the entire structural node and may include everything from strength summaries and detail sketches to interactive 3D snippets and expanded design calculations.
While most connection design solutions provide data on individual member ends, engineers typically need to evaluate the entire structural node. SDS2’s design engine is built around complete node analysis —now connection cubes give users an easy way to communicate that information and find buildable solutions that work in the shop and field.
Connection cubes will facilitate better review and design processes between connection design engineers, engineers of record, fabricators, and detailers.
How do connection cubes work?
Part of what makes connection cubes so powerful is how easy they are to create and use. Within SDS2’s modeling environment, you simply select the members and connection components you want included in your cube, and then get ready to run your report.
Within your report, you can include applicable schedules of minimums for structural members or shear plate connections, 2D details, a material solids U3D (with optional holes, bolts, and welds included), design strength summaries, and expanded calculations.
We’ll go into a little more detail on some of these elements below.
2D DETAILS - Before generating your report, you have the option of creating views—either preset or custom—to generate the 2D detail sketches of your connection cube. The detail sketches are fully editable within the SDS2 drawing editor, just like any 2D details you would create from the model. If you don’t set up any views but opt to include 2D details in the report, SDS2 will automatically generate a default 2D detail view for the report.
MATERIAL SOLIDS U3D - The U3D is an interactive 3D element within the report. End users can zoom in and pan around the model snippet to view it from any angle. It also comes with a fully functional model tree. Clicking on a component in the model tree will highlight the corresponding element in the model (and vice versa), making it easy to visually analyze the structural node in detail.
The same views you create for your 2D sketches will also be applied to the 3D model, allowing users to snap to predetermined views. In conjunction with the interactive model tree, this will allow you to guide your collaborators to very specific elements within the connection cube for crystal clear communication.
CUSTOM NOTES AND ATTACHMENTS - To complete the connection cube report, you can also type in notes and attach additional files—for example, a cover sheet or design specs from a manufacturer—and arrange the report materials in the table of contents preview box.
Connection cubes in your project workflow
As a communications tool, connection cubes can be applied at any stage in a project lifecycle and for any project delivery method, whether you’re using the engineer-driven design common on the west coast and other seismic areas or the delegated design prevalent in other regions of the US.
In an ideal workflow, engineers could apply SDS2’s connection design intelligence to deliver fabrication and erection-ready designs from the get-go, rather than relying on oversimplified schedules which frequently lead to RFIs. Connection cubes would provide a quick and easy way to collaborate with the design team—you could send designs to a senior engineer or EOR for approval, for example. The reports would minimize the need for hand calculations, which are labor-intensive, often repetitive, and prone to error.
Farther down the project pipeline, connection cubes will drastically accelerate RFIs, replacing the ad hoc screen shots, sketches, and notes with clean visualizations and all the calculations an engineer needs to quickly review and approve any design changes.
For example, let’s say the construction documents did not account for safety connections. The detailer or fabricator can apply the new design in SDS2, select the added connection and create a connection cube, and then generate a report with all the desired materials and a few notes on the RFI.
It’s easier and faster for all parties involved, and the ability to include the entire connection node will help minimize further RFIs and change orders later on.