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structural calculations

structural calculations

structural calculations

I am new to steel structures, but familiar with mechanical design.  Can anyone advise me of a good entry-level engineering software package useful in calculating "red-iron" members for small buildings and residential structures?  All help is very welcome.

RE: structural calculations

Feel free to call me a Luddite, but...

Shouldn't you be developing a sound feel for the correctness of anything that a software package will tell you before you embark on computerised design outside your own field of experience?

I would recommend some good paperware in the form of relevant current textbooks (I won't suggest particular titles since mine are all antiques ) before you start on software.

RE: structural calculations

Austim, thank you for your words or wisdom. However, I have a copy of 'Manual of Steel Construction, Allowable Stress Design, Ninth Edition' which I've been reading.  This has helped so far, as I've only just begun to read it.  The software will no doubt be VERY beneficial in my learning curve as most good packages have certain prompts for errors and invalid input.  With these TWO methods of self-teaching I feel I can acomplish my goals.


RE: structural calculations

Hi Mattf11,

I have been hoping that someone else would come up with a good reponse to your request for a good entry-level steel design software package.  However, it looks as if you may be stuck with me (unless getting your post back to the top of the list activates another forum member ?).

If only we knew of your need about a couple of years ago (ie before the need arose ?), then I would have had a pretty good answer.  Until about 18 months ago, it was possible to download a free copy of Avannse for Windows - Student Edition, which could have been  ideal for your purpose.  That had limited capabilities (I cannot recall what the limit of nodes and members was, but you could do some reasonable work with it, and it would have been a good start for you.  I suggest that you see if any of your current contacts, (or local engineering schools) would be able to give you a copy.

Unfortunately, the Avansse software is now published under the name of Ram Avansse, and I think that they no longer support the Student Edition.  It could be worth your time contacting Ram to see if they do still offer a limited edition at low cost.

My next suggestion is that you get a copy of an aged DOS program called Microsafe which provides a good basic package for general 2D and 3D structural analysis.  I think that it is still to be found on http://ftp.mecheng.asme.org/ftp/FEA_STR/ ; (If that is not an exact address, surfing from the mecheng.asme.org home page should get you there quite quickly).

You need to copy each of four files - MSAFE2D1.LZH, MSAFE2D2.LZH, MSAFE3D1.LZH AND MSAFE3D2,LZH.   All of these are fairly small (about 150 - 200 kB or so).  The downloadable version of Microsafe was limited in the number of nodes, beam and plate elements and that you could use, but again one could analyse reasonably complex structures with it.

Microsafe does not have a design module, but it does have acceptable analytical capability.  Since it predated Windows (of almost any version), the graphics are fairly primitive by today's standards, but are still quite useful.  The input and output files are all in ASCII text format, making it particularly easy to modify models to allow for chaning geometry, member sizes etc.  The model preview module is amply fitted with intelligent error messages to tell you what it thinks about your input if/when you omit any data.

I hope that this reponse may help you on your way.  With any luck, it might still prompt some answer more suited to your needs.

RE: structural calculations

austim - good comments.

One small correction - I don't think that Avansse is the same as the RAM product.  We had a demo of Avansse some years ago, produced by SSI Structural Simulations, Inc. (is that the same thing as what you are referring to?)

RAM's product is called RAM Advanse.  

RE: structural calculations

Hi again, Mattf11 and JAE,

My original statement suggesting that Avansse had been taken over by RAM Advanse (yes, I did have the name wrong, JAE) was based on little more than a wild jump to a conclusion.  Namely, that at about the time I could no longer get any response from www.avansse.com, RAM Advanse appeared on the scene, therefore one MUST have been "taken over" by the other.  (I would like to think that my deductions are usually more logical than that ).

When I had first looked at the RAM Advanse page of the RAM International site I was quickly frightened off by the line which quoted a cost of $1500 (which would not be particularly good value for me, when I can still do nearly all that I need on a full version of Microsafe that I bought for about $400 in 1992 or so) and therefore I read no further.

Had I not been put off so easily, I would have got to the point where RAM state that RAM Advanse "is not a new product", and then go on to explain that its "predecessors Avansse and AVwin98" had been around for 9 years.  So I wasn't far off the mark with my original hasty conclusion.

Getting back to Mattf11's original query, I now know that RAM Advanse has been available as a freely downloadable student version with a capacity of 50 nodes maximum (which would be adequate for practical design of simple 2D (and much more simple 3D) structures.  The only problem right now is that RAM have suspended the free download "due to software piracy", and it is not clear when they expect to restore the offer.  Perhaps the best suggestion is "watch that space"

RE: structural calculations

If all you need is a simple analysis program for calculating forces you could try a program called analysis 1.11 which you can find at http://cuylaerts.net. Very simple but it works.

Carl Bauer

RE: structural calculations

austim....how 'bout that.  So RAM Advanse IS the old Avanssee?   We got the demo and tried it out.  Quite a graphic package in that after a frame analysis you could get stress contours... not the usual kind where you would see a single member ONE color representing its maximum stress along its length....but a rendered cartoon of the wide flange showing colored stresses all over the webs and flanges.  Wasn't sure what to do with flange stress contours so we didn't buy it.

I'm still touting RISA-2D as cheap and very user friendly


RE: structural calculations

Hi again, JAE,

Yes, it was the stunning (to me anyway) graphics that has always appealed to me with Avansse.  I still think that the coloured stress output is brillant.  (Perhaps a bit like ostrich feathers - georgeous to look at but not much practical value?)  I also found the simple ability to show every member in its cross section (so that one could be sure that all of the local beam axes were correctly oriented) avoided more than a few 'simple'errors in input.

What I did not like was that I couldn't get into the input file for simple data editing, or the printed output files, (which had a dreadful habit of giving me multiple copies of the same load data).

I must have another go at getting a demo of RAM Advanse, once they have cured their problem with software piracy.

RE: structural calculations

I don't have the web address for the program I am going to suggest but if you do a search on "Fitzroy" or "Scale" you may come up with the correct solution.

The program is SCALE by Fitzroy Computing.  It runs in windows and is a series of proformas for the design of many types of member in steel, concrete, timber etc.  The output is in the form of long-hand calculation printout with British Standard clause references.  Easy to follow the route through the design


Andy Machon


RE: structural calculations

You will find SCALE from a search for "Fitzroy computer systems".

However, at a quoted price of 950 pounds sterling, I would be frightened off very quickly.  That sounds very expensive for a set of proforma calulation sheets, unless it also has a genuine 3D analysis package built into it.

RE: structural calculations

Good Evening from Singapore.
Re Avwin 98; Most regettable i lost my downloaded copy when my disk crashed. There was an allowance of 100 nodes.
Anyone there who has the same file available for down loading? I still find this the best, user's friendly program.
Thank you in advance.

RE: structural calculations

Does anyone have any info on downloading scale?? Very good program. I have it myself but the authorization just will not work. Any ideas?? Evmove.com is the problem file. Cheers

RE: structural calculations

There is one good one, FastFrame, which can be downloaded free from www.enercalc.com. ; This is a good, entry level, program and easy to use.  Included are sample programs, which you can modify to see how things work.  Good luck and have a great day.

RE: structural calculations

I lost my copy of the library portion of the MICROSAFE program. Can anyone help me out?
I still find this finite analysis program useful but cumberson in the Windows format. It prints out in "word".

RE: structural calculations


Tell us the files that you need, and an accessible e-mail address (or other way of contacting you) and I will see what I can do.  (I may well be the last surviving Microsafe user in Aus ).

RE: structural calculations

Hi again, jjosephs.

If you have been using the same version of Microsafe as mine (ie release 4.01 or 4.02) then I have good news for you.
(This was the version for a 286 machine.  When I bought this I had nothing as advanced as a 386).

If you have been using a different release, then I don't know whether this will be of any help at all.  I will keep my fingers crossed for you.

I have now uploaded a zip file which includes every file that I received from Microstress Corporation onto my personal storage at Paralink.  (If you haven't come across Paralink before, I recommend that you poke around to see what they offer).  What I have there is 50 MB of personal storage which they maintain at no costs to me (how they make a quid is entirely beyond my understanding ).

Now for the exciting bit - how to access my storage.

1.  Go to www.paralink.com
2.  Click on 'virtual file system'
3.  In left frame, click on 'Login'
4.  In right frame, enter the following details under 'I'm already registered with Paralink!'
     Domain   :  Austim2
     Username :  public
     Password :  public
5.   Click on 'go ahead'
6.   If all is well, you will see a leaping tortoise icon, then an 'explorer-type' screen
7.   In the left frame, click on MicroSafe 4.02 (and watch the leaping tortoise again)
8.   In the right frame, a file named MuSafe402.zip is listed.  Download it (leftmost button on the toolbar), and unzip it.

Finally, I should note that if I am inadvertently breaching copyright by including this file in my public access storage area, I will remove it from public acess if given reasonable cause to do so.

I would hope that this is unlikely.  I have been trying for years to contact MicroStress Corporation to see if they had produced a more modern version of MicroSafe, but I believe that they have ceased operation.

Good luck with the leaping tortoises

RE: structural calculations

It is sad that RAMADVANSE is not available for download. It is a good simple, easy to use program. But there is another program available. It is called CADRE LITE 2.1, it allows upto 2,500 nodes and is quite the graphics color generator. It is also a shareware from Cadre Engineering and if you like the program it cost only $132.00 (US) to make it legit They are located at www.cadreanalytic.com. I have just started to evaluate the program and it seems good. It goes into more design depth tham RAM does or it goes about it in a different manner but still the same I believe it would be useful to you. There is another program available from I believe Stafford University called ROBOT2000. If you do a search for robot97 or robot2000 I believe you will locate it. The program is expensive but you can get a fully functional 45 day demo version. This software is used by many companies in the U.S. and many Engineering schools use it as a teaching tool. Also you might find the site www.EFUNDA.com useful as well. I use it. This site cost about $36.00 (US) to gain access but they have what they call caculators that do what you are looking for and the end result is in step by step long hand so you can see where you started and how you got to the answer, as well as many other disciplines and a wealth of info on materials, process etc. Its a good site for the price.
Hope this helped. One note though, I do agree with one of the orignal respondance of your question, a good designer or engineer must have a solid foundation of engineering fundamentals to build upon before deciding the results you get from either long hand calcs or software are correct. Structural Design and Analysis is a serious business, our conclusions affect others.

RE: structural calculations

Try integer-software.co.uk where you can download an evaluation copy of SuperSTRESS.

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