The Top 5 Helpful Tips for Using CFS Designer™ to Optimize Your Workflows

Back in April of last year, I had the opportunity to show how our new CFS Designer software  could help structural engineers “go lean” in their design process by eliminating repetitive tasks (while still meeting required design standards, of course!). Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to visit with hundreds of engineers in person to teach them about CFS Designer and how it can help them improve and optimize their workflows. As a power user of the software, I want to share my top tips for letting CFS Designer help you save the maximum amount of time.

Tip #1. You need to create only one design file for each project.
CFS Designer has to generate lots of code-compliant designs quickly, but that doesn’t mean you need to end up with dozens of unrecognizable file names on your desktop. The software includes a very handy WorkSpace area in the lower left-hand area of the screen that enables you to save all your wall, jamb, header, and general interaction designs in a single project space. This means that you will be saving only ONE file for each project, a feature that can save you a lot of confusion over time.

Figure 1. The orange box is highlighting the file name (which doubles as the Project Name on the summary reports), which shows up at the top of the WorkSpace area. In this example, I’ve added just one beam/stud model for the sake of simplicity.

Tip #2. Quickly duplicate similar wall sections or design types by right-clicking on the model name in the WorkSpace.
On cold-formed steel projects, there are often very similar wall sections or jambs that you’ll need to design. They may have slightly different parapet heights, different loading or different wall widths. Instead of starting from scratch and creating a new section every time, CFS Designer allows you to right-click on any existing design. The right-click action brings up a “Duplicate” pop-up which lets you create an identical model in your WorkSpace. You then have the ability to change the model name, make slight modifications, and then re-save your project to see it show up as a new model in the WorkSpace area.

Figure 2. Here’s where to right-click in order to get the “Duplicate” pop-up to appear.

Tip #3. Expand the “Member Forces” and “Connection Summary” sub-menus in the Beam Design module to get real-time updates of the reaction loads, member stresses and connection solutions.
A critical area of member design is the reaction points, because it doesn’t really matter whether your cold-formed steel member is adequately designed if the connection points don’t have a solution. Many engineers I met with thought they had to click on the “Summary Report” button every time they wanted to know the reaction forces, waiting anywhere from 10 to 15 seconds for the PDF file to load and then having to scroll through to find the correct section. Thankfully, there’s a much quicker way to view the reactions. CFS Designer instantly updates the reaction values on the design screen, but the onscreen menus that have this useful information need to be opened up first. Within the Beam Design module, click on the small down arrows to the left of “Member Forces” and “Connection Summary,” and that will expand these two useful sections and display the design information without your having to wait and generate the output. On a related note, another useful area to keep an eye on during design is the very bottom of the screen, where green text will let you know when your maximum member stress and web crippling check are compliant, red text will alert you if your member design is insufficient, and the deflection ratio limit is always displayed.

Figure 3. Here’s where to find the collapsed “Member Forces” and “Connection Summary” menus.

Figure 4. Click on the arrows to the left of the menu titles to see your important design information in detail.

Tip #4. Use the “WorkSpace Report” button for a one-click method of combining ALL the individual summary pages into a single PDF file.
After you’re done generating all your different models and saving them to your WorkSpace, you’re probably going to want to generate the output files you can print and add to your calculation package for submittal. One engineer I met with a couple of years ago told me that this was the most dreaded step because it meant she had to open each model, click on the “Summary Report” button, wait those 10–15 seconds for the PDF file to generate, and then print it out or save it. For large projects, this would need to occur 20–30 times – yikes! Thankfully, a huge part of the development of CFS Designer relies on feedback such as this to help Simpson Strong-Tie continuously improve the program’s functionality. The latest version of CFS Designer introduces a “WorkSpace Report” button, which takes a single click to create all of the summary reports for each model type, saved in a single PDF file.

Figure 5. Be sure to use the “WorkSpace Report” button to save yourself a ton of time generating all your printable output.

Tip #5. Use the onscreen tip pop-ups. Small gray question mark icons are strategically placed throughout CFS Designer to offer helpful tips and tricks for specific input boxes.
Structural engineers are expected to know a lot, but it isn’t always necessary to remember all the details if you know where to look them up. Because the information requested by some of the input boxes may not be completely self-evident, we built in some handy pop-up tips to help out. A small gray circle with a question mark inside makes its appearance next to input boxes. Hovering your mouse over one of these question marks will cause an info box to appear, letting you know what information is required, what code section to reference, or what design methodology is being used. I have found these pop-up tips to be immensely helpful, especially in conjunction with the program’s User’s Manual (located under the Help menu, at the top of the program).

Figure 6. I got this box to pop up by hovering over the question mark next to the “Load Modifiers” section of the Beam Input module. If you search for “Load Modifier” in the User’s Manual, it will direct you to the relevant AISI code section.

I’ve had fun sharing some of my top tips with everyone today, but there is a great opportunity coming up to learn even more about our CFS Designer software from one of the original developers of the software. Join me and Rob Madsen, P.E., Senior Project Engineer from Devco Engineering, for a one-hour live demo of the software and connection solutions. Rob has been described as one of the premier structural engineers in the cold-formed steel design arena, and he will walk you through detailed wall stud, jamb, header and stacked wall design examples using CFS Designer. I’ll be presenting on the innovative, tested and code-listed product solutions that Designers can use to save time in addressing the critical connection points in CFS design. We hope you can join us for the live demo, but if you have other commitments at that time, a recording of the webinar will be made available on our website for your viewing convenience. The course will also earn professional development hours (PDHs) and continuing education units (CEUs) for any folks who need credits to renew their professional licenses.

Bonus Tip: Sign up for our upcoming CFS Designer™ webinar on Thursday, September 28!

Further Reading

For additional information or articles of interest, check out these available resources:

    • AISIStandards – A free download of all the cold-formed steel framing standards adopted by the 2015 International Building Code.

 

    • CFSEI – The Cold-Formed Steel Engineering Institute, an incredibly useful technical and professional resource for Designers of cold-formed steel structures, with a huge library of technical notes.

 

 

 

Our Latest Online Resource: Steel Deck Diaphragm Calculator

Although Simpson Strong-Tie is best known for our structural products: engineered structural connectors, lateral systems, fasteners and fastening systems, anchoring products and most recently, concrete repair, protection and strengthening (RPS) systems, we are continually developing new and exciting software solutions. As we’ve discussed in prior blog posts, Simpson Strong-Tie has numerous software programs and web and mobile apps available for download or online use at www.strongtie.com/software. Today, I’d like to review our recently launched web app, the Steel Deck Diaphragm Calculator. The calculator is accessible from any web browser and doesn’t require downloading or installing special software.

While the method of designing and specifying a steel deck and its attachment can vary by region, most designers are familiar with the Steel Deck Institute (SDI) and its Diaphragm Design Manual, 3rd Edition (DDM03). DDM03 presents diaphragm shear strength and stiffness equations for various steel deck profiles and commonly used attachment types (welds, power-actuated fasteners, or screws). The calculations can be quite tedious, so the SDI has developed numerous tables using these equations and placed them at the back of DDM03 for easy reference.

Typical diaphragm shear table from SDI’s DDM03. Image credit: SDI.

Typical diaphragm shear table from SDI’s DDM03. Image credit: SDI.

Since the tables in DDM03 are based solely on the fasteners and deck profiles included, determining diaphragm capacities utilizing any other proprietary fastener or deck profile fall on the designer or the proprietary product’s manufacturer. Enter Simpson Strong-Tie.

Our Steel Deck Diaphragm Calculator enables users to produce custom diaphragm tables similar to those in DDM03, generate detailed calculations using SDI equations based on project-specific inputs, as well as optimize deck fastening systems to ensure the most cost-effective design is utilized. The calculator incorporates our X-series steel decking screws, including the recently launched Strong-Drive® XL Large-Head Metal Screw, which has one of the highest capacities in the industry and in most cases, can be used as a 1-for-1 replacement of pins or 5/8 diameter puddle welds. (For additional information comparing Simpson Strong-Tie X-series and XL screws to pins or welds, review F-Q- STLDECK14.)

Decide whether to optimize a design or generate diaphragm tables.

Decide whether to optimize a design or generate diaphragm tables.

The app can be used with minimal required input to generate tables and project-specific calculations. A more detailed analysis can be performed by inputting parameters for up to five unique zones, including overall dimensions, diaphragm shear, joist spacing, uplift and more.

Input detailed information for up to 5 different zones on the same project.

Input detailed information for up to 5 different zones on the same project.

One unfortunate aspect of many web apps is that your work is typically lost once you close your web browser. I’m happy to report that the folks here in our app development group have added the ability to save and upload project files. The calculator also provides a clean PDF printout of your results while giving you the option to generate a submittal package with supporting documentation, such as code reports, product approvals and installation recommendations.

Generate a submittal that includes all calculations and necessary supporting documentation.

Generate a submittal that includes all calculations and necessary supporting documentation.

Try the revised Steel Deck Diaphragm Calculator yourself and let us know what you think. We always appreciate the feedback!

Introducing the Joist Hanger Selector Web App

Designing buildings and dealing with construction has always been a satisfying career for me. It is challenging to design a complete structural system, coordinate with the other consultants and create a clear set of construction documents for the contractor. Throughout my career, I’ve occasionally had a few panicked “Uh oh!” moments. I hope I’m not alone in admitting those happen. These typically occur far away from work when something prompts me to think about a project. I might see concrete being placed, then question whether I remembered to change the reinforcing callout on a mat slab I had just designed. I can’t stop thinking about it until I get back in the office to check.

I had an “Uh oh!” moment a few days after I started work at Simpson Strong-Tie. We have a training plan I call Catalog 101 where new engineers meet with each engineer who is an expert for a given product line. After I had met with our experts on holdowns, concrete anchors and engineered wood products, it was on to top-flange hangers (and my “Uh oh!” moment).

Catalog 101

We really do call it Catalog 101

After learning a lot of things I didn’t know about hangers, we moved on to available options for some of our top-flange hangers – sloped, skewed, sloped and skewed, sloped top-flange, and offset top-flange. I learned that some hanger options get full load, some have small reductions and others large reductions. For example, the GLT with an offset top-flange gets 50% of the table load.

GLT/HGLT hanger options section of Wood Construction Connectors Catalog, C-2013

GLT/HGLT hanger options section of Wood Construction Connectors Catalog, C-2013

“Uh oh!”

I had recently designed a project and specified a bunch of GLT hangers with offset top-flanges. I hadn’t noticed there was a reduction for this modification; I just thought it was really cool that Simpson Strong-Tie had a hanger that worked at the end of a beam. Minor panic set in until I could check my calculations. Fortunately, the beams at the framing conditions that required offset hangers had half the load of the typical beams, so the hanger was okay even with the load reduction.

Hanger Option Matrix from Wood Construction Connectors Catalog, C-2013

Hanger Option Matrix from Wood Construction Connectors Catalog, C-2013

The Wood Construction Connectors Catalog has a Hanger Options Matrix that makes it relatively simple to see which options – sloped, skewed, concealed, welded – are available for each hanger. The pages following the options matrix have more detailed information about size restrictions and load reductions associated with each option. It can be somewhat tedious to sift through all of the options and apply the reduction factors, so I always recommend using the Simpson Strong-Tie Connector Selector® software to do the work for you.

Connector Selector

Connector Selector

Connector Selector software allows you to input you geometry and loads and returns a list of connectors that meet those requirements, including any reductions due to modifications. Connector Selector is a desktop application, which needs to be downloaded and installed on your PC. Engineers have indicated they like the functionality of Connector Selector, but wished the input was more intuitive and preferred it as a web application.

Joist Hanger Selector web app

Joist Hanger Selector web app

I’m happy to say we listen, and the new Simpson Strong-Tie Joist Hanger Selector web app is available now. The easy-to-use interface enables users to quickly select the connection details and print out results. You can access the app from any web browser without having to download or install special software. The allowable loads are automatically calculated to reflect reductions associated with modifications – no more “Uh oh!” moments for me (at least with hangers).

Joist Hanger Selector App

The joist hanger selector app makes it easy to pick the right hanger.

Give the new Joist Hanger Selector web app a try and let us know what you think. We always appreciate your feedback!

New Simpson Strong-Tie Anchor Designer software

Remember back to the days when you used allowable stress design for designing anchorage to concrete? Once you had your design loads, selecting an anchor was quick and easy. The 1997 UBC covered the anchorage to concrete in less than two pages, so the calculation was painless. Post-installed anchors were even easier, since allowable loads were tabulated and you just needed to apply a couple of edge distance and spacing reductions.

Since the introduction of strength design provisions and the adoption of ACI 318 Appendix D, first in the 2000 IBC, designing code-compliant anchorage to concrete has become much more complex. At least once (and probably not more) armed with a pencil,  calculator, and an eraser, most of us have set out to design a ‘simple’ anchorage to concrete connection using the  Appendix D provisions. Several pages of calculations later (and hopefully with a solution to the problem), most of us, I imagine, came to realize that designing anchorages to concrete by hand required much more time and effort than we anticipated or could allocate time for. As a result, many of us probably created an Excel template to speed up the design process using built-in functions and some Visual Basic programming.

I'm never going for looks on my spreadsheets.

I’m never going for looks on my spreadsheets.

The question is: are you still using the template?

For me, the answer is an emphatic “NO”, mainly because the spreadsheet I created has limited capability given the complexity in adapting the design methodology to complex anchor layouts, changes to the design provisions with each new code edition, and the need to add/modify data each time a new post-installed anchor product is introduced.

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2012 Autodesk University

Autodesk University is an annual conference focused on keeping the design community up to date on the latest innovations, trends and technologies in design, drafting and visualization. Last year, Autodesk University was held in Las Vegas the week after Thanksgiving. Sadly, events always seem to conspire to prevent me from going to Vegas, but Simpson Strong-Tie was well represented by Frank Ding, our Engineering Analysis & Technical Computing Manager.

Frank received his Bachelors and Masters degrees in Manufacturing Engineering from Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and has a Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering from Washington State University. Frank joined Simpson Strong-Tie in 2004 to head up our Finite Element Modeling efforts. Frank now manages all of our technical computing efforts, which includes keeping up with the latest developments that can assist us in our R&D efforts. So with introductions complete, I’ll let Frank tell you about his Autodesk University experience:

It was an exciting time attending my first Autodesk University in 2012. I have been to so many technical conferences during my professional career, but this one was quite different in scale, and the sheer size of it just blew me away. There were more than 8,000 attendees from 102 countries, more than 750 classes offered, and 163 exhibitors. I was impressed by the organization of such a large event, along with the online and mobile apps provided to help attendees manage their conference schedules.

My past impression of Autodesk was only limited to AutoCAD for 2D modeling. Now it has more than 40 SKU’s of different design software for use in the architecture, engineering, construction, manufacturing, media and entertainment industries.

Highlights of the conference, from my perspective, include:

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