Great structural engineering software should help us to do mundane and everyday tasks. Instead of implementing routine calculations, we should spend our time thinking of load paths, scheming up scheme designs, having our submissions comply with regulations, monitoring contractor’s works, etc.
We recently found out about Dlubal’s RFEM, a 3D structural analysis software package. We have given RFEM a try and we must say, RFEM is one of the top contenders in the structural engineering software industry. Like most structural engineering software, RFEM assists you to model your structural systems, to analyze your model’s deformation, internal forces and stresses, etc. However, it has functions that go above and beyond.
RFEM has a clear structured and intuitive guided workflow.
One section of its integrated user interface is a guided list of structural modelling and design procedures. From top to bottom, the list guides you through inputting model data, such as lines, materials, surfaces, supports, member nonlinearities, and other model input data. The list also guides you in generating load inputs and load combinations. From there, you can use the list to generate results, such as internal forces, displacements and rotations, support reactions, to use add-ons to design structural elements, and to generate reports. Using this organized list, you do not have to miss out on any crucial steps, such as forgetting to change material properties or forgetting to change support conditions.
Add-on modules: Only buy and use what you need
Most software try to make themselves comprehensive by including a bunch of features in its program. However, this will take up large computer data and memory storage space. Some software will only focus on certain features, but will not include other features, making it not comprehensive enough for the design and analysis process.
RFEM has a variety of add-ons that you can buy ONLY when you need them for design and analysis in RFEM. This makes RFEM a much more light-weight software, making structural design and analysis a streamlined process. Also, since there will not be any unnecessary functions in the software, analysis will be a less confusing process.
RF-/STEEL Add-on Module
To use the module, the RFEM model is created, loads are inputted into the model elements, then RFEM model data is transferred to the steel add-on module. In the steel module, steel surfaces and members can be designed and analyzed. For steel surfaces, results for membrane and shear stresses and surface displacement can be generated. Surface thicknesses can then be optimized and the optimized data results of the steel surface can then be exported to RFEM for further analysis and for documentation. For steel members, stress diagrams can be produced for each member with their maximum stress values and displacement values. The cross sections of the steel members can also be optimized and exported to RFEM, where analysis can be implemented again.
RF-CONCRETE Add-on Module
Like the steel module, the RFEM model data is transferred to the concrete module for the design of concrete structures. In this add-on module, concrete surfaces and members are designed and analyzed. Concrete surfaces, such as walls, shells, and plates, are designed as deep beams. The module can design for top and bottom reinforcement and can design to avoid compression or shear reinforcement. For concrete member designs, the software determines the neutral axis depth and concrete and steel strains. It also produces results for longitudinal, shear, and torsional reinforcement required and produces internal forces diagrams for each member. It also generates an optimized reinforced concrete cross section for the design data. In addition, creep and shrinkage behaviour of the member and deformation analysis in cracked sections can also be observed in this module.
Other special modules include laminated glass design, lattice tower structural design, tensile membrane structural design, influence lines generation, etc.
Automatic generation of predefined definitions and loads based on code requirements
RFEM also has the capability of automatically generating preset partial safety factors, load combination coefficients, and other coefficients that are required for design and analysis in regulatory standards. Once a specific code is selected during the setup of the model, the corresponding coefficients according to the selected code are then automatically used for design and analysis. These can also be modified if necessary.
RFEM automatically categorizes and generates load cases according to the code specified. For load combinations, when the specific code is selected, RFEM generates the corresponding load factor coefficients for your load combinations. Moreover, you can choose which load cases are to be in which specific load combinations. For example, internal structures will not have wind or snow loads and external roof structures will not have imposed loads (aside from maintenance loads), therefore, imposed loads should not be combined with wind or snow loads. To reduce the number of load combinations and analysis calculations, you can choose which loads to be exclusive or inclusive loads.
When you want to input line loads onto structural members, you do not need to calculate your line loads separately by determining tributary areas and load widths. RFEM can automatically convert area loads to member loads via planes. Graphical representations of which members the loads were inputted can also be generated.
Wind loads and wind coefficients can also be automatically generated when you choose your designated wind zone, terrain category, wind velocity, and structure height and geometry.
Predefined library of cross-sectional members and properties
Predefined member sizes are built-in in RFEM. You can use most member sizes with their predefined sectional properties, material properties, and grades in your designs. One special feature of this function is its preset built-up sections from different manufacturers.
Special Selection function
RFEM also has this great feature called the “Special Selection” where you can select members that are of specific member type (tension, compression, rigid, truss only, etc), specific material, specific cross-section, on specific nodes, or parallel to specific or selected members. This is great if there are thousands of members in your structure. You can then edit these members or assign member releases more efficiently.
Follow analysis and iteration process
Not only can global and local deformation and internal forces results be generated in the analysis process, you can follow the analysis and iteration process while RFEM is running analysis.
Multilingual and organized reports
After analysis and design are done, reports with graphics can be printed out for presentation to authorities or clients. RFEM reports are automatically organized into chapters and have colored graphics and outputs of internal forces, deformation analysis, and support reactions, and can be produced in different languages (eg. English, German, French, Italian, etc).
Other Dlubal products
RSTAB is another structural design and analysis software produced by Dlubal. This software is similar to RFEM but is more specialized in structural frame analysis for the design of beams, frames, and trusses.
RX-TIMBER is a stand-alone program that designs for glue-laminated beams, continuous beams and columns.
CRANEWAY designs for craneway girders according to Eurocode 3. It can also be used for bridges and suspension cranes. CRANEWAY calculates and analyzes deformation, stability, stress, and fatigue of crane runways and welds.
COMPOSITE BEAM program designs for single-span or continuous composite beam sections and generates results for internal forces, lateral torsional buckling analysis, deformation analysis, crack width analysis, etc.
This post is sponsored by Dlubal.