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RISA-3D vs Visual Analysis (and others)

RISA-3D vs Visual Analysis (and others)

RISA-3D vs Visual Analysis (and others)

(OP)
First, I know that there have been many threads on the various structural analysis programs in the past, and I have read many of those. That said, these programs are ever changing and adding new features (and bugs) and I would like to hear people's current thoughts, specifically about RISA-3D and Visual Analysis, but feel free to give some thoughts on other programs as well.

I have been using RISA-3D since 2008, so I know the program very well (or did until version 18 came along smile). I also use RISA Connection and Foundation through the integration that they use, however most of work I do is in RISA-3D. I was not overly impressed with the way RISA rolled out their major update and as much as I want to like it, I'm still not liking the version 19 interface. I say all that to say, I am seriously considering switching over to another software.

I started with the idea that I might switch to SAP2000 as it can do some more robust nonlinear analysis (depending on which level of the program you get), but after downloading their trial and running through the tutorial they provide, I am not going to pursue that any further. Building models is nowhere near as intuitive as it is in RISA-3D (in my opinion) and I don't need more powerful analysis options enough to warrant the tradeoff in modeling speed.

Another program I am considering is Tekla Structural Designer (the company I work for uses Tekla Structures for detailing), however I have not pursed that one too much as of yet. (Does anyone here have any experience with this program?)

The program that has really caught my interest is Visual Analysis, I have no experience with VA, I only know about the program because of eng-tips. I downloaded the free trial and have been watching their training videos. So far I really like what I see. It seems to be even more intuitive than RISA-3D, and just as robust (though I still have lots of exploring to do). I wish they had a pdf tutorial to work through like RISA and SAP2000 but I will make do with their videos.

For those that have used both RISA-3D and Visual Analysis, what are your thoughts between the programs? If you had to pick one to use which would it be? Is there anything that RISA-3D does that I would miss if I switch to VA? (I do not use RISA Floor). Are there any major difference that stand out between the two programs?

I appreciate everyone's thoughts and opinions on this matter (and again, please feel free to give thoughts on other comparable software as well).

RE: RISA-3D vs Visual Analysis (and others)

Dauwerda -

Some quick thoughts on your post:

Quote:

I started with the idea that I might switch to SAP2000 as it can do some more robust nonlinear analysis (depending on which level of the program you get), but after downloading their trial and running through the tutorial they provide, I am not going to pursue that any further. Building models is nowhere near as intuitive as it is in RISA-3D (in my opinion) and I don't need more powerful analysis options enough to warrant the tradeoff in modeling speed.

I started out not liking the SAP2000 interface much. But, now that I've been using it more, I've adjusted. I'm still not as proficient with it as I was with the older RISA interface (which I absolutely LOVED). But, I've gotten pretty good with SAP's interface now. Though I understand that most people making the RISA transition don't have as much time / energy to devote to the transition as I have had.

Quote:

I would like to hear people's current thoughts, specifically about RISA-3D and Visual Analysis, but feel free to give some thoughts on other programs as well.

I have not used the Visual Analysis program very much. But, I have used it a little over the years. I've had some minor interaction with the guys who work on it over the years and they seem like good guys. My impressions are the following:
1) I liked the IES guys in every interaction I had with them. Good guys. Real people, not corporate robots.
2) It's a much smaller company (at least that's my impression). Not necessarily a bad thing. But, they likely don't have a ton of resources. So, development may be slower if you're looking for major changes to the program.
3) The interface looked pretty good to me a few years ago. But, I strongly suggest downloading a Demo version of the program to really give it a test run.
4) My impression (though I could be wrong) is that the program had a number of "plug in" modules.
a) Partly I mean that you buy the base version, then add on a number of design modules for concrete, steel, wood, or whatever. This might also apply to various analysis capabilities. Just be aware of this when you price it out.
b) I also mean that some of the program may not be written by them. I can't remember why I got this impression. And, it's not necessarily a bad thing. But, if true, it can make technical support more difficult.... If there's an issue with an outside module that wasn't developed by them, then it can be difficult to support.


Full Disclosure: I am the former VP of Engineering for RISA, but was forced out when Nemetschelk took over. Now I work for one of their major competitors (CSI / SAP2000). I say this to bring attention to any bias (intentional or not) that I may bring to this type of conversation.

RE: RISA-3D vs Visual Analysis (and others)

(OP)
Thanks for the response Josh! I certainly respect the knowledge you bring to the table and was hoping you would offer some thoughts.

To your point 4, they do provide different "levels" of the program, with "Advanced" being the complete package with the most features. Looking at a suite (VA Advanced, Foundation, and connection) the subscription cost looks to be very similar to that of RISA, but they also offer a perpetual license for a higher up front cost, with option maintenance subscription as well.

Hopefully you will have some influence with your current role to get SAP2000 to an interface that you love as well!


I would love to hear from some current (or past) VA users to see what they like or don't like about the program.

RE: RISA-3D vs Visual Analysis (and others)

Quote:

Hopefully you will have some influence with your current role to get SAP2000 to an interface that you love as well!

Keep in mind that a lot of the RISA interface was designed while I was there. So, if I thought something was getting too complicated, I'd flag Bruce or Roger (neither of whom is with RISA anymore) and explain what I didn't like, why and what I thought would be better. My point is that much of it was written to align with the way I think. Of course it was going to be my preference!

That's not true of the new RISA interface. It was designed by Debbie (who was project lead on the new interface) to be more like Revit. I can see some advantages to it compared to the old one.... But, "user friendliness" is not one of them in my opinion.

With CSI / SAP I've had to change the way I think a bit to get real comfortable with the interface. I don't know if it will ever feel quite as natural as the old RISA interface to me. However, I am constantly impressed by aspects of it that I'd never realized were there. I've probably been too focused on my day to day work and learning all the intricacies of the existing interface and analysis capabilities. But, your post woke me up a little... I really do need to make some time to write up the aspects of the interface that I believe can be re-arranged / improved. Thanks for the encouragement!

RE: RISA-3D vs Visual Analysis (and others)

I used RISA 3D at my last job, and I use Bentley RAM at my current job. I downloaded a demo of VisualFoundation, and I enjoyed using it.

I think RISA 3D was superior to RAM in a lot of ways, especially in terms of how quickly it can solve a model. But just to be a contrarian (sorry Josh), I didn't like the interface. After working with it for a year, I didn't gain much muscle memory and I ended up making a few macros to act like shortcut keys using AutoHotKey. I complained a little about RAM when I started using it, but I think it was easier to learn, and I think it's laid out pretty nicely. It doesn't do time history or moving loads, and you can't pin plate elements, it's pretty good for every day use. The 3D rendering looks pretty nice, too.

RE: RISA-3D vs Visual Analysis (and others)

Crabby -

Just to clarify, are you talking about RAM Elements, or RAM Steel? I feel like that might be relevant to the OP depending on whether he's primarily a steel guy or needs a more general purpose program.

I can certainly appreciate that one person might find one interface intuitive and another person find it clumsy. FWIW, I think there are a lot of users who start out learning CAD programs like AutoCAD or Revit and look for a program that behaves similarly.

RE: RISA-3D vs Visual Analysis (and others)

(OP)
The majority of the time I am designing steel industrial type (pipe racks, equipment towers, etc.) and substation structures, however I do like to have the ability to do wood and concrete every once in a while as well.

One thing I can't find in VA is a way to do the "open structure" type loading that RISA can do. This is a drawback, but not a deal killer, after all, I have been trying to get RISA to add shape factor capabilities to their open wind loading for years and they just keep telling me it's on the list - it would be so much more versatile with that capability.

RE: RISA-3D vs Visual Analysis (and others)

I haven't used RISA enough to offer a comparison, but I've used Visual Analysis for a long time (I think my first version came by mail on floppy disks). I can tell you that when they changed the interface a few versions back I hated it and starting thinking about whether it was time to switch. I stuck it out, though, and it works well for me.





RE: RISA-3D vs Visual Analysis (and others)

You mentioned SAP2000. After you get used to it, the model development and analysis features are easy and fast.

In my opinion, the design checks are a lot harder to use in SAP2000 than in RISA-3D. Lots of defaults are set opposite of what I would've expected. Also, you sometimes have to change parameters in multiple places to make the change take effect.

RE: RISA-3D vs Visual Analysis (and others)

First do you already pay for the AEC bundle from Autodesk to use Revit or AutoCAD? If so before shelling out more money for an analysis package try using Robot for a little while.

Have you thought about how you are going to transition to a new analysis package, ie ditch old models for projects in CA and redo calcs on demand for any issues that crop up?

From the short demo I did of Visual analysis it is similar to RISA and RAM Elements, so if you really need the non-linear stuff that SAP has to offer you'll be SOL. One of Visual's best benefits over either is the option to purchase a perpetual license though which is appealing to some folks.

My Personal Open Source Structural Applications:
https://github.com/buddyd16/Structural-Engineering

Open Source Structural GitHub Group:
https://github.com/open-struct-engineer

RE: RISA-3D vs Visual Analysis (and others)

(OP)

Quote (Celt83)

First do you already pay for the AEC bundle from Autodesk to use Revit or AutoCAD?
No, the company I work for uses Tekla structures for detailing. We also use AutoCAD Advance Steel but we are phasing it out in favor of Tekla.

Quote (Celt83)

Have you thought about how you are going to transition to a new analysis package, ie ditch old models for projects in CA and redo calcs on demand for any issues that crop up?
This is a valid point, but the nature of our projects don't tend to drag out very long nor do they often require updating/changing calcs. If they do, each individual structure tends to be a small model, so it won't take much to recreate a structure if needed.

I don't need the nonlinear stuff - just sometimes wish I had it with RISA, which is what initially made SAP2000 attractive to me.

Quote (271828)

You mentioned SAP2000. After you get used to it, the model development and analysis features are easy and fast.
The issue is the time commitment it looks like it would take for me to get used to it and become proficient.

kipfoot - thanks for sharing your experience. It really sounds like (from this thread and other previous threads where VA got a little more coverage) people that are using VA don't have any major issues and really tend to like it. Whereas with SAP2000, almost every initial statement talks about the whacky interface that takes time to get used to and proficient with.


The more I play with VA, the more I am liking it. It will still take some getting used to and lots of time spent modeling to get to even close with where I am at with RISA, but in general it actually seems set up a little bit better than RISA for my needs.

RE: RISA-3D vs Visual Analysis (and others)

I used RISA 3D pre-V18 and loved it. Since going out on my own, I picked up the IES suite as an economic alternative to RISA.

I like VA. It's a solid program and works well. It's intuitive, but it's different so there's an adjustment period. I may still be in that adjustment period, but I think RISA had more functionality/options. The old UI in RISA was superior to the current VA UI, but I can't speak to the new RISA UI. RISA also had better documentation and guides. VA tells you what to do, but if you don't know exactly what button A looks like or where it is, you're up a creek.

I have the Tekla Structural Designer demo on my computer, and I've played with it a bit. I have a love/hate relationship with Tedds - it has so much potential that it doesn't quite realize when I need it to the most - but Tekla SD seems pretty nice. Once I got the hang of it, model building felt quick and easy. One thing I don't like about it is the lack of aluminum design. They have an integration between SD and Tedds that allows you to export members and do "hand calc" type reports for them. I haven't played with it enough, but if they let you export analysis results to their custom calculations (since Tedds lets you do MathCAD/SMath style WYSIWYG calc programing), I might be making the switch. It's also surprisingly affordable.

RE: RISA-3D vs Visual Analysis (and others)

(OP)
phamENG - thanks for the response! I certainly have noticed the lack of documentation and guides for VA as I try to get familiar with it. RISA excels in that aspect. You are also the first person I have found that has any experience using Tekla Structural Designer (even if just the demo), perhaps I should pursue it a bit more before I make a decision.

For many of my projects, the calculation package is a major deliverable, so putting together a results package that provides all required information in an organized and clear way is important (as well as being quick and easy w/o much manual editing once a template is set up). I played with VA's reports a little bit yesterday and while it is very different than RISA and will take some getting used to, it seems like it will be much better than RISA's in the long run.

RE: RISA-3D vs Visual Analysis (and others)

Yes - reports is something VA gets right. I found them to be much more user friendly when it comes to editing their contents to tell the story you want to tell without all the fluff that RISA seems incapable of excluding.

Tekla's products are really nice for detailed reporting - especially if you're getting down to the individual member level. If you have the time to use their engine to build your own templates and calculations, it would pay for itself in no time if you have a lot of repetitive work. Even if it's not that repetitive, it could still be a valuable tool for producing reports with the right details.

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