Structural engineering affects almost every aspect of our lives, often in ways which we don’t expect.
Of course, structural engineers are integral to constructing large and small apartment buildings. The safety of high-rise offices, which house workers, in cities worldwide every day, and the soundness of bridges, which transport cars over major intersections and bodies of water alike, is paramount. However, structural engineers are also vital to operations we rarely see or think of. In Michael Mills’ case, this includes process equipment in industries such as; oil, chemical, and food refineries. Through his company, Payne-Huber Engineering, Mills supports refinery plant additions, repairs, and renovations by developing the structures and foundations supporting the equipment. Companies like Payne-Huber are important in helping industries transport critical materials and convert them to support societal structures. For example, designing a concrete “tabletop” structure supports a large vessel and the foundation to support the equally large crane placed in the vessel.
Attaining Code Compliance with Ease
As a former U.S. Army Corps of Engineers member, Mills takes the utmost pride in ensuring his work abides by the various structural codes and regulations. These regulations protect all parties involved, including the general public, owners, operators, insurers, and design engineers. This allows the engineers to meet everyone’s expectations whilst providing safe structures. PTC Mathcad Prime, PTC’s engineering calculations software, promotes adherence to structural codes by including details that might otherwise be missed or omitted. The software enables Mills to codify the work required to meet structural design regulations. The software offers an easy way to conduct repetitive calculations, and in doing so, Mathcad helps to ensure all calculations will lead to a safe and reliable structure.
Every Detail Matters
As a Mathcad user since 2014, Mills appreciates just how much more detailed this software is when compared to Spreadsheet software. Specifically, it allows him to see the original formulas and follow the results from beginning to end: He can essentially track his own thought process throughout the calculations. He builds his Mathcad worksheet templates to match critical structural codes and regulations, which helps keep his work in check. Mathcad proved itself to Payne-Huber while designing a large, concrete “tabletop” for an oil refinery in which #14 bars were used in the 7’x7’ beams. The piers for this structure stretched 70 feet into the ground. Mills used a Mathcad worksheet to calculate the strains in the concrete and steel. The worksheet was extensive, but Mills successfully and seamlessly transformed it into a formal 600-page report for his client. Because of Mathcad, Mills could produce several iterations of loads and conditions without sacrificing the streamlined nature of his work. Mathcad’s automation is well-suited to revisions and reuse between projects and can calculate pipe weight, length, fluid volume, wind and seismic loads, and any other additional computations – all of which can be performed with ease.
Looking at the Bigger Picture
Mathcad has the capability to add more context to calculations than Spreadsheet software, and this bigger-picture view can result in safer, more efficient structures. The spreadsheet solution is not unit-aware and cannot handle engineering units. Whereas, Mathcad’s capabilities reduce the chance of error—and if the units are off, major problems can follow further down in the process. Mathcad can also integrate images and other outside materials, allowing engineers to display the greater context of their work. This helps with Payne-Huber’s quality assurance and eliminates the chance of something going wrong because of a small calculation error or misunderstanding. Structural engineers must prioritise accuracy and safety when so much is at stake. To ensure extra peace of mind, triple checking your work is an important step in the process. Mathcad allows engineers to confirm that their precise calculations will lead to sound structures. “Every time you cross a bridge or go up a tall building, thank a structural engineer,” Mills said. “Tools like Mathcad are helping engineers achieve better accuracy and accountability in their calculations, leading to the safe, reliable structures we often take for granted.” By giving context to their work, Mathcad allows engineers to feel confident in their calculations by providing traceable, path-matching, stringent regulations.