Over the last few years, we’ve been working a lot on our Steelspace platform, which we envisioned as an open, cloud-based service. In Consteel 15, the developments behind Steelspace have enabled us to save and share models online, but this is just the beginning of our project. Our goal is to create a community where structural engineers can easily share knowledge and collaborate with each other, which will help us collectively set a new direction for the way structural design is done.
Innovationen in Steelspace
Implementing Steelspace is not easy. We encountered a number of technical difficulties during development, and in recent months we had to redesign the platform to make our vision come true. We have learned a lot during the process, which allowed us to define a new direction for the project with new technological solutions meanwhile rethinking the overall user experience. We redesigned the foundations of the service to facilitate effective collaboration during engineering work in the long term. Let’s look at what these innovations would be.
Einfaches Order- und Dateisystem, leicht zu durchsuchen
One of the main goals was to create a user-friendly system for storing and sharing models. The interface has been completely redesigned so that Consteel models stored in the cloud can be simply organized. You can create any folder structure, easily search for models, and multiple views and sorting options help you navigate through the models stored in the cloud.
Teilen Sie mit nur wenigen Klicks
Models can be shared with a few clicks. The system offers multiple sharing permissions, with the option to view the shared model only within Steelspace or with full access to open it in Consteel as well. You can decide to what extent you want or need to share your work with others. During testing, we have found that the number of models shared can quickly grow and become hard to navigate. To avoid this, you can create a separate, independent folder structure for shared models, which you can organize as you wish.
Demonstration of the folder system and model sharing
Quick display of models
Another priority was to address the perceived weaknesses of the viewer interface: reduce loading time and improve usability. As a result, we have created a completely new graphics engine for the online display, which allows us to display models effectively, whether it’s a frame stand or a complete hall.
Der Viewer wurde komplett neu durchdacht, nicht nur technisch, sondern auch in Bezug auf die Benutzererfahrung. Beim Navigieren im Modell haben wir versucht, es so komfortabel wie möglich zu machen, das Modell visuell zu erkunden. Das Drehen oder Verschieben hängt nur vom Klicken mit der linken oder rechten Maustaste ab, während das Vergrößern und Verkleinern einfach mit dem Mausrad erreicht wird.
Fast display of models
Viewing the model is supported by a completely new view setting system, in which we combined the functionality of the coordinate system and the view changer. As a result, during moving and rotating a model, the position of the model in the model space relative to the coordinate system axes is continuously visible. By clicking on the endpoints of the axes, you can easily set the model in the direction of a given axis, while switching between perspective and orthographic views. View adjustment does not stop at the projection type, scaling of certain model objects is also possible. Thus, if you want to take a screenshot, but the loads are getting cluttered, making it hard to see the calculations or the model itself, you can make them smaller or even turn them off completely with a click.
Coordinate system and view changer
Datenanzeige und Filterung
In the world of structures, it is not enough to have a visual representation, for design work we need concrete data such as section type, material quality, and load intensity. These are just a few of the many data that can be extracted from the model, whose general data can be viewed in the right-hand panel, with the content changing dynamically depending on the number of selected objects. Selection can be done on the model or by clicking on the elements in the list on the left, and it is even possible to make a pre-filtered selection according to section or material. In addition, it is possible to view all the characteristics of a single bar, which are also displayed in a table on the right when selected. Objects that are important to you can even be labeled with their most important properties.
Filtering, properties and help guides
We’re very curious to hear what you think about the platform. If you need help, you can access quick guides from the ‚Help‘ menu within the model viewer or a comprehensive description by clicking on the ‚More help‘ button. We’re looking forward to your feedback on how useful you find our development in your daily work. To log in, please use the email address and password you have provided on our website. See you at Steelspace!
In the last couple of years the term „cloud computing” could be seen almost everywhere. Although it might seem that it’s a new technology, the concept has been around since the 1960s and it’s evolving still. But what is the cloud? And why should you care? Let’s take a closer look!
There are three broad concepts that define the cloud:
- delivering a service, such as computing or storage, as a utility;
- multiple people sharing the same computer resource;
- access via networking.
If you are not sure what do these concepts mean, think about your daily activity on the internet.
If you are unfamiliar with modern-day cloud services, let me tell you, you are using some sort of cloud service most of the time while you are on the internet. I’m sure you’ve used one of the Google services like Docs, Sheets or Drive. What do these services provide for you? Google Drive, for example, delivers a storage service, where you and other users share resources, the storage space in this case. And you can access it via a network called the internet. With Sheets and Docs, you can have Word and Excel-like functionalities in your browser, which are kind of computing services, where the computing resource is shared amongst users.
If you apply this train of thought on other services, you realize that in fact, every Google service is a cloud service from Gmail to Maps. But not just Google, these services are everywhere, just think of Spotify, Netflix, YouTube, the list goes on.
Where is everywhere?
“But where is it the cloud exactly?” you might ask. Although it seems it is all virtual, the cloud requires hardware as part of the infrastructure. A cloud solution is made up of a variety of physical hardware such as servers, backup devices, load balancers that are usually located at multiple geographical locations.
The virtual part of the infrastructure means that they separate resources from the physical hardware. This technology called virtualization. A software sits on top of the physical hardware and abstracts the machine’s resources, such as memory, computing power and storage. Once these virtual resources are allocated into centralized pools, they are considered clouds.
One of the most compelling benefits of putting a service in the cloud, that it frees the end-users’ machine from doing the hard work. When you access one of these services, the heavy lifting is done by the above-mentioned infrastructure. And it is designed to be able to do this kind of work. With the centralized virtual resource pool, the infrastructure can be scaled, meaning more memory, storage or computing power can be added and adjusted automatically, to different needs.
If you go further with this idea, it is somewhat obvious that if the cloud handles all the resource-heavy tasks, then you don’t need a particularly powerful machine on the client-side. This conclusion opens the possibility to use the services from almost any device, from mobile to tablet. It is a huge boost to accessibility.
Another great aspect of cloud services is that sharing documents between users is way easier since everybody is on the same infrastructure. With the centralized data, sharing a file does not mean transferring a file, but granting access to a document that you own.
Also, the data are specifically safe on these systems. The databases and storages are designed to be fail-safe with many backup devices.
Once we looked around in the industry, we realized that the possibilities that the cloud has, are not exploited. It is safe to say that structural analysis and design software are a bit behind the world. As we always engaged in innovation, an idea started to take shape, that structural design experience could be so much more if we take advantage of the opportunities of the cloud. As we started to explore the possibilities the present state of cloud computing we realized that the future is now.
Therefore, we created Steelspace, a new platform for structural engineers to make knowledge sharing and collaboration easier.
I hope this summary made things clearer, and next time you use a classic structural software I hope you have the same thought in your head as we do: how much more could it be?