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In the time it took me to read that last list post, I could have designed several beams, columns, and footings in Enercalc.....
 
Point being, software is a useful tool in your structural engineering tool box, along with hand calcs, sketches, spreadsheets, Mathcad (which I have used extensively because of its flexibility and transparency), and off the shelf software. It depends on who you are and the job you are doing, much like a carpenter uses a nail gun for sheathing and framing, and a hammer for the tight spots...
 
I have had good experiences using Enercalc, and for its cost and the number of modules, it works out pretty well for the everyday smaller structural projects many of us encounter. It is not without its faults, and I am not arguing that at all, especially the latest versions and the bugs they are ironing out. I preferred the older version myself even though I was getting used to the newer version. I will say Michael Brooks seems very responsive and proactive and has gotten back to me in a timely manner on a couple occasions. Try that with your credit card,mortgage company, etc....
 
The biggest reason to use software for me is rapid iterations and all the other time savings, which can take forever using hand calcs only. Not to mention some structures are just too complex geometrically and otherwise to not use software. We cannot do structural engineering just for fun, it has to be in a timely manner to be economically viable, so software is an obvious huge time saver. My first several years out of school as an EI was all hand calcs, Excel and Mathcad. But once you have designed a simple span steel beam by hand about 100 times, ya get the point. Also, developing the feel and judgment by doing hand calcs or Mathcad was very important for the learning process and for passing the PE.
 
I think it boils down to what type of work you do, the complexity, your age (possibly), experience, and of course economics.
 
As far as cost goes, simply figure you will use a piece of software for how long? 2-3 years minimum? Divide the cost by your hourly rate to get a number of hours. Most software you will find pays for itself on the first couple of jobs.
 
Just my couple cents,
 
Andrew Kester, PE