For Javier Glatt, CEO of CadMakers Inc., one of the chief benefits of digital modeling is the ability to capture knowledge that can be shared with collaborators and applied to future projects—whether or not those collaborators use digital tools.
In fact, he advised his audience in a presentation at the 3DEXPERIENCE Forum to find a business model that removes the burden on industry veterans of learning the latest technology, while still incorporating their invaluable knowledge.
For example, when working with mechanical contractor Trotter & Morton on a wastewater treatment plant, the CadMakers team was tasked with optimizing the workflow using digital modeling and improved collaboration, even though many of the individuals on the project didn’t use computers.
Glatt’s team worked closely with the project contractor to essentially capture his 30 years of insight into the digital project.
Through their combined knowledge, they were able to ultimately determine areas that could be prefabricated offsite and reduce the onsite labor from 20 people to 5.
Glatt points out that despite the focus on 3D, it’s important to use tools that can still deliver information in traditional ways. Being able to deliver a cut sheet and an automated bill of materials to fabricators reduces the barrier of entry for those shops.
“If we can provide information that’s really easy to understand, just about anyone can cut that pipe,” Glatt says.
More Reliable Innovation
Glatt also explored how digital design can help contractors innovate more easily than ever before.
When working with property developer UBC Properties Trust, CadMakers helped explore the use of mass timber in an 18-story building.
Because codes only regulate the material in the first six floors, the project team turned to a digital environment to demonstrate to code officials that mass timber could safely be used in this application.
The first step was a digital mockup that tested 16 different connection points. While Glatt says it proved helpful to later build a live mockup, the digital mockup helped the builder to immediately select a preferred connection. Once the mockup was complete, the project overall was 60% faster than a traditional build of a concrete building of a same size, Glatt says.
From there, the digital model would ultimately include details as specific as every nut and bolt and screw. That level of detail was absolutely necessary in this unique project. For example, in the design phase the team was considering using highly specific mass timber screws coming from Germany, at $2 per screw, posed a risk from a cost perspective.
Every floor was detailed down to every stud in order to provide fabrication data directly from the model. And given the fire risk for a timber building, the encapsulation layer was thoroughly detailed to communicate compliance with all fire regulations.
The mechanical room was another area that proved ripe for prefabrication—it holds a lot of complexity in a small area, and relatively few trades are involved in its production. The team used DELMIA to break down the room’s master assembly into each subassembly by system and then to the part level to integrate a manufacturing-like bill of materials.
According to Glatt, this process reduced work from roughly 1,000 labor hours to approximately 320.
The ultimate benefit was speed to market. The under construction project, originally planned to build in 20 months, is projected to be complete 4 months ahead of schedule.
CadMakers also helped developer Westbank (ICON Construction is their in-house General Contractor) to use data-driven decision-making to create a complicated glass facade.
The project called for a dual radius curve of glass for the windows, with dual radius curve extrusions for the top and bottom sills, and pre-cast concrete to match. Each component was produced in a different country, so precision was key.
Using numerical analysis to precisely determine the geometry essentially changed the way the project was bid, Glatt says.
“You used to go out to the market with a façade, do a few drawings, throw it out to multiple fabricators and ask, ‘How much does this façade cost?’” Glatt says. With that strategy, there are typically surprises, and change orders are the norm.
Instead, the team used CATIA to write a script that created 2,020 unique total panels and slab edge panels automatically.
The geometry was exported so that instead of offering rough drawings out to multiple fabricators to bids, the builder or architect is able to tell the market with precision what was needed, and get more precise costs in return.
Paying Knowledge Forward
Glatt emphasized that every project presents an opportunity to learn and build new value through digital engineering. “We learn at scale, build use cases and automation tools to solve those problems, and incrementally get better each time,” Glatt says.
By capturing, digitizing and scaling knowledge through rules and catalog components, lessons learned on each project can be shared among the entire team and applied to future projects.
“As a business owner, I don’t want to lose the value of learning when I have someone work on a really interesting project,” Glatt says. “If we can capture that [knowledge] in a rule, as a reusable tool, then it helps me. I can have 10 people who didn’t work on that project get all the benefit of that learning from one individual, and then we can apply that to the next incremental project.”