30 Jun, 2000 By: Patrick Davis

Tools for structural modeling and detailing.

Structural modeling and detailing

Pros:Good tech support; very useful; fast; great features.
Price: $5,995 (includes first year’s annual $1,000 maintenance fee and two and a half days of training in Nebraska office; travel is at customer’s expense)

Structural Software Distributors


PRO-STEEL 3D from Structural Software Distributors provides a unique collection of tools for structural steel design in AutoCAD Release 14. An AutoCAD 2000 version is currently in beta and will be released in mid-July. The program is designed for 3D modeling and detailing of structural steel and specialty materials.

For this review, I looked at PRO-STEEL 3D for AutoCAD Release 14.01. The installation process creates a new AutoCAD/PRO-STEEL 3D startup icon and a PRO-STEEL 3D profile, one pull-down menu, and five toolbar menus. Despite the number of items in the pull-down menu, it’s easy to find a specific command. The printed documentation is clear and concise. Structural Software Distributors also provides on and offsite training.

PRO-STEEL 3D uses a rather annoying authorization and copy protection scheme. For this review, I received both a dongle and a software copy control disk for authorization. Unfortunately, I could not authorize the program successfully with either protection scheme. To solve the problem, the company sent me a fully functional demo of PRO-STEEL 3D.

To start a design, you first create a work frame to orient in 3D space. The Work Frame dialog box lets you quickly specify the dimensions and divisions for length, width, height, cutting plane distances, predefined views, and roof layout parameters. Properly set, work frame and cutting planes dramatically simplify placing of shapes and speed up the design process.

After you create the work frame, you insert shapes with the Insert Shape command. More than 1,500 predefined shape types and sizes ship with PRO-STEEL 3D. With very little effort, you can easily expand the shape database. PRO-STEEL 3D also provides several ways to define special and combination shapes.

PRO-STEEL 3D comes with more than 1,500 predefined shape types and sizes for structural steel design.

There are several ways to insert a profile. By far the simplest method is to insert along a line. After you select a line, PRO-STEEL 3D displays a direction cone with the point toward the end of the profile to be inserted. You can then accept or change the orientation and insert the profile. PRO-STEEL 3D also provides options for inserting profiles along two points, across three points, across point and angle, multiple, and as a cross-section.

PRO-STEEL 3D includes tools to insert and create roof and wall elements, metal sheets, stiff connections, stiff base plates, free plates, haunches, braces, web angles, ribs, bolts, drilling, and weld symbols.

You can easily control object properties such as the display method of profiles. You can change object properties without any loss of information to the profile. In addition to profile display mode, you can change a profile class and size, drill hole display mode, general data relating to the parts list, position for insertion, group name, drill hole, cuts, cutouts, and notch details as well as links between individual objects.

Linking objects let PRO-STEEL 3D create smart connections. When you establish a link between objects, the individual objects in that group know which objects they are connected to and automatically adapt to any changes.

When you insert profiles along a line, parts often overlap and require modification. PRO-STEEL 3D provides a built-in command to find overlapping parts and a wide range of commands to modify parts. You can select from cut to fit, divide, connect, notch, outlet, shorten, extend, polyline cut, angle cut, and plate adaptation.

One of PRO-STEEL 3D’s most powerful features is the ability to generate automatic shop drawings and construction groups. You begin by defining a detail style with your choice of many options and settings. Defining a detail style that meets your company’s standard involves a little patience, trial, and error. As you would expect, you can save detail styles and use them in other projects.

PRO-STEEL 3D includes several smart structural objects that you can create and modify with a few mouse clicks. Current smart objects are staircase, hall frame, purlin, and banister. The staircase generator is really slick. You first select the insertion point and specify the direction of the stairs. The Stairs dialog box then opens to display all the relevant details such as length, height, type and size of shapes, step, and handrail details. Changes made in the dialog automatically update the staircase on screen. You can generate a complete staircase in a matter of minutes.

PRO-STEEL 3D provides a wide array of easy-to-master tools to create and modify structural steel objects. The initial cost and annual maintenance is rather expensive, but worth the money.

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