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RE: Structural Engineering as Art and the pitfalls of computers

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Happy New Year Barry -
When I said that the concept of manual drafting is becoming archaic, I
should have said that the need to represent our creative thought remains
constant but the instrument to carry this through has changed.
I can appreciate that the majority of engineers still rely upon manual
drafting as a way to sketch a solution. I'm one of those few who can not
really do this well by manual methods. This is the same as writing to me. I
can not represent my thoughts on paper if left to a pencil. I can go
directly from thought to keyboard as my instrument - anything slower and I
lose my concentration because I am always thinking of the fine points of
what I am doing. In addition, I can "tweak" my solution to discover a small
flaw that will make it unworkable. On paper, I would need to keep redrawing
until the flaw worked its way to the surface.
For example, what happens if the 3x nailer is not wide enough to cover the
top flange of the beam. In manual sketching, I don't think we consider this
since we are providing only a representation of what we want and relying
upon our draftsman to work out the minute details. Possibly it does not mean
much since the draftsman can choose a wider member and simply rip it to fit.
The point is that I believe the engineer should have considered this as it
requires additional labor - thus cost- to accomplish. Sometime later,
something of more consequence may occur which could negate hours of work
that a cad drawing may have recognized over a hand sketch.

With cad, we can workout these minute details at the same time and produce a
more viable solution OR see where the flaws of our ideas occur. This alone,
is a tremendous time saver.

My mother and uncle are artists. I admire them so much for their ability to
create realistic looking pictures. I do not have the perception or the
control to be able to do this. The majority of engineering drawings that I
have seen lack the qualities that most architects and renders seem to have.
However, I found that Cad allows the engineer to create the objects and
later arrange them on the paper for presentation.

I use to sit in class and hand letter my notes. I know it sounds absurd, but
I had developed a lettering style and was very fast - faster and more
readable than script. The downside was that I lettered using a small
triangle as my straight edge guide. I was faster than most who took notes in
script and was often kidded about my unusual style. Cad allowed me to letter
better than, and in less time than by hand. The output was equal to or
better than I was able to do by hand. This demanded that I master the
keyboard - simply an instrument that helped me to represent what was in my

My point is that we need to perfect our representation skills with the new
instruments we have at hand. Not everybody is using these tools, but as
older engineers retire, younger engineers who know of nothing else will make
manual drafting techniques as archaic as the classic church architects
script which dominated drawings as late as the 1960's.

Better or Worse - who's to say. The one fact is that we recognize
engineering as a business. Because of this we do what every other business
has been doing since the mid-seventies. We are getting rid of the fat in
order to produce the greatest amount of work, the greatest amount of
accuracy and the least amount of cost.