Introducing Autodesk Advance Steel 2016

With the release of Autodesk Building Design Suite 2016 back in June Autodesk announced that AutoCAD Structural Detailing was to be discontinued from the suite but would still be made available to clients that had subscription. One of the main catalysts for change was the acquisition back in 2013 of the Advance Steel product which gives the much needed fabrication and structural detailing capabilities to the existing Autodesk structural suite of products. Autodesk Advance Steel now completes the portfolio giving BIM workflows and capabilities to Steel Detailers, Fabricators, Manufacturers and Contractors.Autodesk Advance Steel Workflow

In the workflow shown above the structural engineer can design the steel frame in Robot and then import the model into Autodesk Revit with the design results, the Revit model can then be transferred and synchronised with Autodesk Advance Steel. The steel detailers can then add any secondary steel, cold rolled systems as well as the required connections and check these to the required design codes, create fabrication documents and output CNC code. The Advance Steel model can then be federated into the main Navisworks model allowing contractors to plan the logistics and construction. Finally, Autodesk Point Layout can be utilised for the creation of points and then the data exported to Robotic instruments for setting out.

A major strength of Autodesk has always been integrating tools to give users good workflows and the transfer of intelligent models and data. Autodesk Advance Steel can import and output to the following neutral formats.

  • IFC
  • CIS/2
  • SNDF

The NC data can be output via the common DSTV format or to certain bespoke machine tools. Another option is to output profiles to DXF to interface with LASER, plasma and similar automated cutting machines.

Other intelligent synchronised links are possible with Autodesk Revit and Autodesk Robot. The interface with Autodesk Robot Structural Analysis will also output the design forces directly into the Joint Design tab. There are also workflows with AutoCAD Plant 3D and Autodesk Inventor.Autodesk Advance Steel Import and Export Tools

A huge advantage of Autodesk Advance Steel is that it runs on top of AutoCAD giving a very familiar feel to existing AutoCAD users and good resourcing potential when looking for steel detailers with CAD experience. Although the main drafting and modify tools are shared with AutoCAD 2016, Autodesk Advance Steel brings many more bespoke tools to aid the modelling of structures, analysis and drawing outputs. The tools work in a very intuitive way and are used in logical workflows to provide full control of your digital model.

The steel frame can be produced either by placing elements at specific points like drawing lines in AutoCAD or you may prefer to create AutoCAD lines and convert these to Advance Steel structural elements. Plates, holes, welds and bolts can then be added to the steel elements to complete the required details.

In the image below you can see the Advance Steel connection Vault allowing the automated modelling of over 300 joints and connections. Additionally, each joint can have a library of common sizes and types stored for future projects. Custom connections can also be generated and stored within an Advance Steel Palette. Many of the standard connections support design and analysis to EC3 directly within the joint dialog box with a full design report that can be exported.Autodesk Advance Steel Connection Vault and tool palettes

The vast majority of the Advance Steel commands are all transparent which makes previewing and navigating very straight forward. For example, in the below image the railing tool has been started, the user can manipulate the display, make changes within the dialog box and instantly see the results in the context of the model.Autodesk Advance Steel Railings

Another interesting feature of Advance Steel is with its Multi User technology allowing many users to work within the same DWG model. This is achieved in a similar way to Revit by utilising a master model and then each user connecting to the master model and checking out elements as required. This becomes a very useful feature when working on very large steel projects.

Autodesk Advance Steel Multi User Tools

The Advance Steel Document Manager is the central location to manage and view all 2D output such as drawings, schedules as well as DSTV files. All documents can be previewed and managed from this simple dialog. A major strength is the ability to change any model element and instantly see which documents need revising. The revisions are then applied and revision data and clouds are automatically added to the relevant drawing frames and views.

Autodesk Advance Steel - Document Manager

The various drawing and detailing processes can handle the output of all single part drawings, assemblies and NC output with a click of a button. This is achieved by creating pre-configured drawing styles that control every aspect of the drawing from view placement, object visibility through to dimensioning strategies and intelligent labelling.

The Autodesk Advance Steel drawing output is among the best in class with fully customisable templates and styles that can be applied via simple tool palettes. The image below shows a typical Elevation and 3D Isometric detail.

Autodesk Advance Steel - Typical Elevation and 3D Frame

Here you can see a fully automated drawing output from the model. Each plate has been detailed on a separate A3 sheet with required quantities, weights and even lotting information added to the sheet. When detailing large amounts of components such as plates, beams and columns Autodesk Advance Steel has a very useful set of tools called Drawing Processes. This is based on a complex set of styles that will generate all documents with the correct templates for each view and sheet.

Autodesk Advance Steel Typical Drawing Output - Plates

Other output can be automated such as various Bills of Materials for plates, bolts, and even saw lists based on images. Like the drawing Styles each schedule is based on a template that can be fully customised as required.

Autodesk Advance Steel Saw List

In summary Autodesk Advance Steel adds a much needed set of tools to the existing Autodesk portfolio and being based on AutoCAD will instantly have a familiar look at feel to most potential users. As I mentioned previously, another very strong benefit is workflows and integration with other software tools such as Autodesk Revit, AutoCAD Plant 3D, and Autodesk Robot Structural Analysis.

For those of you that would like a little more information and a live demonstration feel free to drop in to our webinar on Thurday 26tt Novemeber 11:00-12:00GMT

Hope to see you there!


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Introducing Autodesk React Structures – New Structural Analysis BIM Software

Autodesk announced earlier this month that they have released a technical preview of a new structural analysis tool named Autodesk React Structures. The software promises to bring exciting new collaboration tools and workflows to structural and civil engineers and further integrate design and analysis results directly into the structural BIM workflow.

Autodesk React Structures - Main Interface
Many of you will be familiar with Autodesk Robot Structural Analysis Professional which is the current Autodesk tool for analysis of Steel and Concrete structures. Whilst this is a very capable design tool the interface and workflows with other Autodesk software has not really developed since Autodesk acquired the technology back in 2006 from Robobat. At present it is very obvious that React Structures is based on the Robot platform but the clunky Robot interface has been completely re designed and re thought to give a very fresh, clean feel to the software which makes it much more intuitive.

Autodesk React Structures - Ribbons

As you can imagine, being a technology preview, the software is still in a very early design stage and many of the functions and commands are yet to be implemented but the ribbon does hint to some nice future functionality.

I will certainly be keeping a close eye on the development of this product so look out for future posts and hopefully, some tutorials. If you would like to test the software preview for yourself then click the link below:

Have Fun,


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Revit Structure Tutorial – Create Parts and Divide

Link to YouTube Tutorial:

Quite often in structural projects you may be required to turn an in situ element into multiple pre cast elements, a typical example is perhaps a wall. In this short tutorial we will take a look at the use of parts to divide an in situ wall into pre cast sandwich panels that Revit can then schedule and tag.

Revit Precast wall division

In the above example I have created a composite wall style by creating some additional layers and assigning a precast inner and outer face to cavity filler.Revit - Edit Wall Assembly

As you know, when this wall is used within the project you will generally see the wall as if it were one single object in 3D but if you section the wall it is possible to see the layers.

If parts are used then the wall can be ‘split’ into individual layers and then these layers can be manipulated. To create parts first select the wall/walls and then click the Parts icon on the contextual panel.

Revit Create Parts Icon

The wall will then appear similar to the lower left image. The individual layers are clearly visible in the 3D view.

Wall with Parts Created

The parts can then be further manipulated by selecting the ‘Show Shape Handles’ option within the instance properties of the selected part. This will then give you control to edit the physical size of the object. Other information is also shown here such as Volume and area of the part as well as its new physical dimensions.

Revit Parts Instance Properties

This method of manipulation is suited to individual elements but if you wanted to divide panels and also add options such as joints and gaps then the Divide Parts command will be utilised.
First you will need to create some reference planes to control the division of the wall. A wall can be divided by named reference planes, levels or grids. In the below example I have created some named reference planes and then made these equal.Reference Planes to Divide Wall

In the 3D view select the three parts of the wall and then click the Divide Parts command from the ribbon. Then Click the intersecting References tool.Divide Parts - Divisions

You will now see the Intersecting Named References Dialog box. Select the ‘All’ option from the Filter and you can then select all  your named Reference Planes as well as any Grids and Levels that may be relevant.Intersecting Named References Dilog

You will then see a preview of the divisions and also you can select a division profile and gap if required. You can of course create your own profiles which you can then use to split the wall. Note that you can select individual parts and then select the ‘exclude parts’ command from the context ribbon to hide these objects.

Division Profile and Gap Properties

It is worth noting that you will only see the parts in a view if you have set the ‘parts visibility’ to ‘Show parts. In most views the ‘parts visibility’ setting is set to show original. Of course if you make any edits to the original wall then the parts will automatically update.

Parts Visibility - Show Parts

Once the parts are created then you can start to add data to each panel. The first task could be to give each element a unique number. This can be achieved by using the Element Positioning command from the Extensions Ribbon (Note that you need to be a subscription customer and you will then have access to download these tools.)Revit Element Positioning

You can then add your own data as Project Parameters such as Panel Type, Mould Type etc. A schedule can then be generated based on this information which could be very useful for a contractor to understand quantities, repetitive natures and areas.

Panel Schedule

Bear in mind that a very similar set of tasks can be performed on the following objects as well as in place families.

  • Walls (excluding stacked walls and curtain walls)
  • Foundation Walls
  • Floors (excluding shape-edited floors of more than one layer)
  • Roofs
  • Ceilings
  • Structural slab foundations
  • Slab Edges
  • Fascias
  • Gutters
  • Structural Framing
  • Columns
  • Structural Columns

Take a quick look at my YouTube tutorial for step by step instruction.

Have fun,


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SOFiSTiK Reinforcement Detailing and Autodesk Revit Structure

Reinforcement Drawings and bending schedules have traditionally been prepared in semi-automated 2D applications such as CADS RC or manually in 2D CAD applications and while this has served the industry for over 25 years the traditional drafting techniques are becoming obsolete and disconnected from the emerging BIM processes and client requirements. The deliverables are most likely to be 2D drawings and schedules but increasingly also a 3D information model which has benefits to all the project teams including the consulting engineers, contractors, fabricators and steel fixers. The 3D model is particularly useful to all team members in highly congested, complex areas where clashes and pre fabrication issues are often only discovered whilst on site which leads to increased cost and project delivery creep. As with any construction project, communication and understanding is always improved when a 3D model with the relevant information is shared with all relevant parties.

Some of you may already be aware of the new features of Revit Structure 2016 for 3D Reinforcement modelling and detailing. Many of these improvements were in relation to the production of an RC schedule and a new tool to allow the use of shapes within a reinforcement path. However, although these improvements are most welcome there are still a few limitations, deficiencies and annoyances when it comes to efficient modelling, detailing and scheduling of reinforcement within vanilla Autodesk Revit.

3D Rebar - Revit and SOFiSTiK

Autodesk Revit 2016 gives the primary reinforcement modelling functionality and allows the efficient handling of thousands of 3D rebar’s in a model via specialist elements. The SOFiSTiK Reinforcement Detailing tool takes these core modelling tools and adds an additional level of sophistication to the modelling, detailing and scheduling of concrete projects. The main SOFiSTiK ribbon is show below.SOFiSTiK Reinforcement Detailing Ribbon

SOFiSTiK Reinforcement detailing’s main advantage is that it drastically speeds up the detailing of rebar by overlaying Revit 2D detail components over the various views and hiding the Revit rebar. The big plus with this technique is that all the supplied families are completely customisable allowing for RC drawings that exactly match your traditional 2D CAD output. For example, if you want to show a UBAR in plan with a dot or perhaps a cross or tick and tag bars in elevation or section then this is just a simple case of editing the supplied family to suit your requirements.

bar tick and tagUBAR Dot

The efficiency of the process is demonstrated below with a slab with some openings and angular faces. The rebar was added with the Area Reinforcement and path reinforcement commands and then the layers are automatically recognised by the SOFiSTiK layer tool. The split Rebar command has then been used to divide the bar into standard stock lengths.

Split Rebars

The view is then added to a drawing sheet, rebar numbers automatically assigned and the bar is then hidden, tagged and detailed. It is also worth noting that varying ranges and skewed bars can be detailed with a new Rebar Container objects.

Rebar ContainersRD Detailing - Slabs
In the next view I have created some reinforcement for a column detail and added some couplers to the model. A separate schedule can then be generated showing the configuration and location of the couplers.

Rebar Couplers and Schedule

I have also found that when the Autodesk Extension Reinforcement Macros are used then SOFiSTiK Reinforcement Detailing will recognise the correct shape code, the original shape codes are not to standard and hence cannot be used with standalone Revit.

Here is an example of the slab opening macro.

Slab Openings

Some of the main new features for the 2016 release are:

  • Rebar Groups – Used for grouping of bars such as varying ranges and skewed bars
  • Bent Fabric
  • UK Content Pack
  • Rebar Chair Spacer – Shape Code 98
  • Rebar Mechanical Couplers

In summery I would recommend that you download a trial of this software and perhaps take a look at some of the tutorial videos that SOFiSTiK have created.

We also have a Revit Structure course designed for existing users that will lead delegates towards the creation of reinforcement within Revit Structure.


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Revit 2016 to Autodesk Robot Structural Analysis Professional 2016 – New bi-directional load transfer

The Autodesk Structural Analysis Toolkit 2016 has been released for a few weeks now and I have been testing and using this during training and consultancy days and have discovered that the workflow now supports loads modelled in Robot and then transferred to Revit as well as a host of other documented features.

Revit to Robot Graphic

If the loading that is added via Robot is not supported in Revit, for example a thermal load, then you will see the following warnings when transferring the model.

Robot - Revit Warning List

When the transfer is made from Robot to Revit all the load combinations are also now transferred across. With this new functionality it is now much more realistic to add all the loads and load/code combinations in Robot and then transfer to Revit.

Revit Load Cases

The following enhancements are available in version 2016:

  • Gravity analysis: Apart from static analysis, you can perform gravity analysis. It is the analysis type which by deducing the flow paths of loads lets you determine how vertical loads are transmitted from the top to the foundation of the model.
  • Result Explorer: You can display and explore types of results for gravity analysis.
  • Perform analysis: You can perform a batch of analyses simultaneously. In the Analyze in Cloud dialog, you can specify a type and parameters for several analyses.
  • Website – 3D Structure Viewer: You can display results for static analysis and gravity analysis in 3D Structure Viewer. Moreover, you can display detailed results. Results for members and surfaces are presented in the Local Coordinate System (LCS).
  • Website – 3D Structure Viewer: On mobile devices, you can zoom in/out, pan, and rotate a model using gestures.
  • Website – project page: You can share an analysis with collaborators. Collaborators cannot edit results and cannot download them to the Revit project. They can view analysis results, view a report, and download the Robot model with and without results.
  • Website – dashboard: You can open the Autodesk® 360 Structural Analysis dashboard on the website clicking Analyze tab > Structural Analysis > Open Dashboard.
  • List of messages: You can toggle on and off the list of messages containing information about performed analyses by clicking Analyze tab > Structural Analysis > Messages.
  • Revit – Robot Integration: When updating a Revit model with changes in section sizes, the link checks compatibility between the section size from Robot and family types loaded to the Revit project. If it identifies a family type compatible with a Robot section, it updates the Revit model with it.
  • Revit – Robot Integration: You can specify which levels to transfer as story levels and which levels as structure axes to the Robot model.
  • Revit – Robot Integration: During the Revit – Robot link process, orientation of loads is transferred. Loads are presented in the Local Coordinate System or Global Coordinate System, depending on how they are defined in Revit.


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Revit 2016 Quick Reference Card

Here is an updated version of our popular Autodesk Revit Quick Reference Card for download!

Revit 2016 Quick Start Guide

Download from this Link:

Revit 2016 Quick Reference Card


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Autodesk Revit, Dynamo and Microsoft Excel for Drawing Sheet Creation

When Dynamo was first released for Autodesk Revit I assumed that this would just be used for computational geometry and complex architectural forms. However, I recently took a deeper look into Dynamo and started to realise that this has many uses for the everyday management of models, manipulation of data and the automation of typical time consuming tasks.

Dynamo Program and Revit Browser
I have created a small Dynamo program to create drawing sheets by reading data from an Excel Sheet and also generate parameters for each view to aid the view categorisation.  I was surprised at how quickly this visual ‘code’ came together! Let’s take a look at the process from the start.

First you need to make sure that you have Dynamo installed, this is installed automatically with Revit 2015 R2 and Revit 2016 but can be installed separately for older releases. The versions are changing very rapidly so in this tutorial I am using Dynamo V0.8.

In the future I can see Dynamo appearing in many other Autodesk applications as it has a very flexible and intuitive interface for the average Revit user that is not a coding expert.

Let’s now look at the steps required to create this visual application. This of course can be scaled up to meet more demanding procedures as required!

  1. Start a new Revit Project and then launch Dynamo from the Add-Ins Ribbon as shown below.Dynamo V0.8 Icon
  2. Start Microsoft Excel and create a document that contains the following columns, you can of course use your own names, numbers etc. Microsoft Excel is particularly good for this type of work as the drawing number can be created from specific entries in other columns.Microsoft Excel for Drawing Numbers
  3. Next you rename the Excel sheet to the following. Save the Excel file in a location of your choice.

Microsoft Excel Tabs

4. Switch to Dynamo and start a new Dynamo File.

Dynamo Application

5. You will now see the main Dynamo interface. The Dynamo application is split between     the node library on the left and the Workspace on the right. You will also notice that           Dynamo has a search function at the top of the node library for locating specific nodes.     Note that older versions of Dynamo may not display icons.

Dynamo Application screen

Start by searching for the File Path node as shown below.

Dynamo - File path Node

Click the File Path node once and it will be added to your workspace. The workspace can be zoomed and panned in the same way as Revit and you can drag the node to any location within the workspace.

Click the Browse button and locate your Microsoft Excel file. This node will allow you to select any type of file on your PC.

Dynamo - Browse

6. Next you add File from Path node. This should appear in the node library as it contains      the File Path search string. Click this node to add it to the workspace.

Dynamo - File from path Node

Next you ‘wire’ the nodes together as shown below. This is the primary method of building a visual program within Dynamo. At any time you can select the small grey square below the file node to display a watch window to show the current output.

Dynamo - Wire Nodes Together

7.  Using a similar process you can search for the Excel nodes and add                           Excel.ReadFromFile and a String Node. These should look like the following as shown below. The String entry is used to select the correct sheet in Microsoft Excel, in our case we named it ‘DRAWING NUMBERS’. Note the Watch window now shows the data from the Excel File. If any boxes show in Yellow then there is an error in your inputs.

Read Excel File Dynamo

8. Next we need to split the data into separate columns from the list. Note that the watch window shows [0], [1] and [2]. These are the column headers in Excel.

9. Type List.Transpose in the Search nodes and then add this to the workspace. Wire the Var[][] node to the List node. You then search and add a Number node and also the List.GetItemAtIndex.

Wire these together as shown below. Again click the grey Square box to show a Watch window of the data. Notice that this is now reading the first column of the Excel Sheet.

Dynamo - List.GetItemAtIndex

10. You then repeat this process to create three separate lists. Note that you can copy and paste the nodes for speed. Select the nodes with the Ctrl Key and then Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V and then rewire. Your workspace should now look similar to the below image.

Dynamo - List.GetItemAtIndex Copy and Paste

11. Next we create a new node to create the drawing sheets in your Revit project. In the search field type ‘Sheet By Name’ and then add the ‘ByNameNumberTitleblockAndView’ node to your workspace. You can then wire the Sheet Name and Sheet Number and connect these to the relevant lists as shown below.

Dynamo - Sheet By Name

12. The next step is to tell the node what titleblock to use. In this example we will use the default A1 Metric title block. Type ‘Family Types’ into the node search and add this to the work space. Also search for ‘Views’ and add this to the workspace as shown below. You can of course use your own settings for the title block and view. In this example I have used the North Elevation for the first view and A1 metric for the Title Block.

Dynamo - Create Sheets

That should be your code. The Running of this code is probably set to Automatic by default but you can select run in the bottom left of the Dynamo interface as shown below.

Dynamo - Run

I hope that this has shown how useful and simple Dynamo can be for automation of tedious operations. I will showcase some more uses for Dynamo in future tutorials.


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