Q&A About CFS Designer™ Software

I recently had the pleasure of presenting a webinar with Rob Madsen, PE, of Devco Engineering on our CFS Designer software, “Increase Productivity in Your Cold-Formed Steel Design Projects.” The webinar took place on September 28, and a recording is available online on our training website for anyone who wasn’t able to join us. Viewing the recording (and completing the associated test) qualifies for continuing education units and professional development hours. The webinar covers how to use the CFS Designer software to design complex loading conditions for beams, wall studs, walls with openings, and stacked walls using cold-formed steel studs, tracks, built-up sections, and even custom shapes. We received some excellent questions during the webinar, but due to time constraints were only able to answer a few during the live webinar. Rob and I did get a chance to answer all the questions in a Q&A document from which I’d like to share some excerpts. The complete Q&A webinar list can be accessed here, or through the online recording.

Where can I download the CFS Designer program?

Please visit strongtie.com/cfsdesigner to download a free 14-day trial version of the software or to purchase a license. Webinar attendees should check their email for a special discount code. There are different licensing options based on the number of users.

Is the price for the software an annual subscription fee or is it a one-time purchase price? Is there any maintenance cost?

There’s no annual maintenance fee or subscription fee. You pay only a one-time fee for the license. CFS Designer is based on an update-and-upgrade program. All updates to the program are free to licensed users and occur every few months to correct software bugs and add functionality. Upgrades, which include new design modules and updated code information, will require an additional purchase. Simpson Strong-Tie anticipates releasing upgrades on a two-year cycle, and the next upgrade has a projected release of early 2019. If you elect not to upgrade your version of the software, the current version you have will still work, but will not have the new upgrade features.

Is CFS Designer fully compliant with AISI S100-12?

CFS Designer is compliant with AISI S100-12. You can also access earlier versions of the AISI Specification in CFS Designer by selecting Project Settings/Code and selecting the version.

Are load inputs in ASD or LRFD? Do the load combination factors have to be applied prior to entering loads in the program? Should factored or unfactored loads be input?

The current software is all in ASD (allowable strength design). The next upgrade version will feature up to eight stories of stacked x-bracing and shearwalls, which will be in LRFD. Everything else will be in ASD. The stacked x-brace and shearwalls will be LRFD because of the ACI requirements for concrete. We will also make it much more clear in this version which input is ASD and which is LRFD.

What is a web stiffener? How would you use one at a stud, header, or jamb?

A web stiffener is typically a stud or track piece that is used to support the wall stud or joist from crippling at a point load or bearing support. There are different ways to design a stiffener at different locations. Some examples include using a cut piece of stud or track attached to the stud or using a clip attached to the beam. Essentially, a web stiffener is a member that is added to the stud to help stiffen the stud from crippling.

Does this program take into consideration the cold work of forming in the design/analysis?

Yes, per AISI the program’s Project Settings default is to include cold work of forming in the design and analysis.

We generally try to size our cold-formed members to avoid the need for web stiffeners, just to save on construction and material costs. Something that helps quite a bit with the web bending and crippling calc is the bearing length. Are there code requirements for bearing lengths, or is this simply based on how much bearing we anticipate the member to have at its supports?

There are no specific code requirements for calculating bearing length for web crippling; the calculation is usually based on engineering judgment and connection detailing to determine how much bearing there will be at the support. A reasonable bearing length may be the length of the connection clip you are using for the attachment. Since web crippling is a “bearing” phenomenon, where attachments are made through the web, provided the attachment is not isolated near a flange, you may not need to consider web crippling. For stud-to-track types of connections, it’s common to use the track leg length as the bearing length.

Does this software give any stud-to-stud connection calculation like stud tearing and shearing? Checks?

The studs are designed per the AISI code for shear, moment, web crippling, axial load, and the related code-required interactions. Net-section rupture near connections is not checked by the CFS Designer™ software.

What is the difference between flexural bracing and axial bracing?

Flexural bracing is bracing that is used to increase the moment capacity of the stud, and axial bracing is bracing that is used to increase the axial capacity of the stud. These might be the same for your design, but we have given the user the ability to designate different spacings.

Do you have recommendations for how to properly terminate bridging at the end of the wall?

We agree that termination of bracing is often overlooked by engineers and should definitely be considered in design. Accumulation of bridging forces should also be considered. AISI S100-12, D3.3 and AISI S240-15 D3.4 provide methods of estimating brace forces. Simpson Strong-Tie has provided some suggestion in our cold-formed steel typical details sheets that show our SFC clip as one method to properly terminate a line of bridging.

Can the kicker connection be used on the underside of concrete fill over metal deck?

Yes! The SJC kicker connection has been tested and code listed to support diagonal brace loads. Simpson Strong-Tie has also provided a wide range of anchorage solutions for the kicker application that include connecting to the underside of concrete fill over metal deck. Concrete over metal deck may be normal weight or sand-lightweight with f’c of 3,000 psi minimum and 2.5″ minimum slab height above upper flute. Minimum deck flute height is 1.5″ (distance from top flute to bottom flute). Please visit strongtie.com for more information and design tables.

Why do some engineers use steel posts welded to a base plate for low wall applications?

For walls that are not top-supported, some Designers use a welded steel post at a certain spacing and infill with cold-formed steel studs and a top track. Simpson Strong-Tie has developed an innovative moment-capacity connection called the RCKW rigid kneewall kit, which can support many of these same conditions using cold-formed steel studs and eliminate the need for structural steel.

Are there any plans to expand the software capabilities?

We have a long list of enhancements and additions for the software and will continue to make the software more efficient, more user friendly, and with additional design capabilities.

Thanks again to everyone who joined us for the webinar and sent us questions. For complete information regarding specific products suitable to your unique situation or condition, please visit strongtie.com/cfs or call your local Simpson Strong-Tie cold-formed steel specialist at (800) 999-5099.

Don’t Buckle at the Knees: RCKW Testing

hienprofileThis week’s post comes from Hien Nguyen, one of our R&D engineers at the Simpson Strong-Tie Home Office in Pleasanton, CA. Hien has worked in new product development for 17 years on a variety of products. While she still does a few connector projects for wood, her skills and passion for cold-formed steel construction have allowed her to become our expert in CFS product development. Before joining Simpson Strong-Tie, Hien worked as a consulting engineer doing building design. She has a bachelor of science in Civil Engineering from UC Davis, and is a California Licensed Civil Engineer. Here is Hien’s post:

A previous blog post described how Simpson Strong-Tie tests and loadrates connectors used with cold-formed steel structural members per acceptance criteria ICC-ES AC261.

This week, I would like to describe how we test and determine engineering design values for RCKW, Rigid Connector Kneewall, in a CFS wall assembly and how the data can help designers perform engineering calculations accurately and efficiently.

The RCKW was developed to provide optimal rotational resistance at the base of exterior kneewalls, parapets, handrail and guardrail systems as well as interior partial-height walls.

RCKW connectors were tested in CFS wall assemblies for 33 mil, 43 mil, and 54 mil steel thicknesses and in stud members with depths from 3½ to 8 inches. RCKW connectors with stiffeners, RCKWS, were also tested in CFS wall assemblies for 43 mil, 54 mil, and 68 mil stud thicknesses.

rckw1

The wall assembly is built using CFS stud framing, bottom and top tracks simulating the kneewall application in the field. The RCKW connectors are fastened to a stud using self-drilling screws and an anchor to the test bed foundation. The horizontal load (P) is applied to the CFS wall assembly at a height (hwall) of 38 inches. The instruments are also placed at the same height as the applied load to measure wall deflection.  The load and deflection data are recorded concurrently until the wall assembly fails.

The allowable moment, MASD, is determined by multiplying PASD, the allowable horizontal load, by hwall, wall height (MASD = PASD * hwall).

PASD is calculated from peak load or nominal load, PNominal, divided by Ω, a safety factor per AISI 100 Chapter F. The blog post on Cold-Formed Steel Connectors discusses safety factors for CFS testing.

Similarly, the allowable rotational angle, θASD, is also determined by wall deflection at allowable load, ∆ASD, divided by hwallASD = ∆ASD /  hwall).

So the assembly rotational stiffness, β, is calculated by MASD, divided by θASD (β = MASD / θASD).

The typical test performance curve for moment versus rotational angle is concave down and increasing as shown in the blue color curve. As a result, the rotational stiffness for RCKW is established by the secant stiffness, which is a red color straight line from zero to the allowable moment as shown below.

rckw2

The rotational stiffness captures connector deflection, stud deflection and fastener slip in various stud thicknesses. Whereas when the connectors are tested in a steel jig fixture, the rotational stiffness includes connector deflection only and not the fastener and stud deflection behaviors. The photos below are examples of member failures which include stud buckling, bottom track tearing, and screws tilting and bearing. These failure modes are reflected in our tabulated loads because of our assembly testing.

rckw34

Designers might wonder why the rotational stiffness is so important and how significant it is in Engineering Design. The IBC 2012 Building Code, Section 1604.3 indicates that structural systems and members shall be designed to have adequate stiffness to limit deflections and lateral drift. Table 1604.3 also provides deflection limits for various construction applications to which the Engineer must adhere.

For example, one of many common applications in CFS construction is the exterior kneewall system below a large window opening subject to the lateral pressure load. This kneewall system must not only be designed to provide moment strength to avoid the hinging failure at the base, but it must also be designed for deflection limits to prevent excess lateral drift that could result in cracking from various types of finish materials.

Since we performed comprehensive testing of full assemblies, engineers do not need to add stud deflection and fastener slip to the calculation. This saves time and eliminates guesswork with their specifications in a common 38 inch kneewall height.

Furthermore, we analyzed the test data to determine connector rotational stiffness, βc, which includes connector deflection, fastener slips, but not the stud deflection.  Connector rotational stiffness allows engineers to perform deflection calculations for assemblies of any height.  Design examples are available in the RCKW Kneewall Connectors flier.

Simpson Strong-Tie recognizes the complexity of performing hand calculations to accurately determine the anchorage reactions for the RCKW connectors. This post on Statics and Testing described how we established loads for our CFS SJC products through testing. We have also provided anchor reaction loads for connectors at allowable moments so engineers could skip this step in the calculations. We measure the anchor reactions by connecting the calibrated blue load cells with the threaded rod that anchors the RCKW connector. The load cell measures the tension forces in the rod directly.

rckw5

Connector strength and stiffness are critical for RCKW products where calculation or interpolation cannot capture the true performance accuracy the same way that testing would. For this reason, we have tabulated values for various stud member depths and thicknesses. Like Paul, I am amazed at the number of tests that go into this product. Ultimately, we can provide complete Engineer Design values that our specifiers can trust in determining adequate strength and stiffness to meet the code requirement.