Structural engineers working today have access to some pretty incredible tools. Innovation in structural engineering is changing the way the practice gets done. From computer science to robotics and smart materials, structural engineering is changing. Recent innovations in the field are solving some big challenges facing the discipline. Some of these innovations are in the fields of safety, sustainability, and intricate structural design techniques. Let’s take a look at some of the top advances in structural engineering.
1. Modular Engineering
We are moving away from the days when building a home or commercial building required lots of manpower and traditional methodologies. Why? Because prefabricated building materials provide a number of advantages over traditional structures. Not only do prefab structures create less waste, but they also go up quicker and require far less manpower and complexity.
Generally, prefab modules are constructed off-site and then transported to the job site. Once there, they are unloaded and then assembled into a finished structure. This happens in a fraction of the amount of time it would take to assemble a structure the traditional way.
Modular engineering can also allow for better build quality. This may seem counterintuitive, but prefab OEMs are building each piece in a controlled environment with advanced tools and technologies. This allows them to harness the power of advanced materials and technologies to build better buildings.
2. Advanced Safety Technologies
The construction sector remains one of the most dangerous employment sectors in the United States. Whether it be due to heights, high-voltage cable, heavy machinery, or otherwise – these all represent safety risks for engineers and construction workers. Fortunately, new safety technologies are changing this paradigm.
One example is in the area of wearable devices, which can track workers and deliver real-time health and safety information. Smart backup systems and RFID tags can be used to detect workers who may be in the path of construction machinery. And virtual and augmented reality training programs provide new ways for engineers and construction workers to do their jobs.
Advanced safety technologies are also interoperable with more traditional safety systems and designs. From fences to body harnesses, helmets, gloves, and more – new safety technologies are designed to work seamlessly with legacy systems and materials.
3. Drone Technologies
It’s no secret that drones are being used to change the way a lot of industries work. And the construction sector is no exception. A growing number of construction and engineering firms now use drones to survey construction sites. But they use them for more than just surveying before, during, and after the building process.
Drone mapping services allow a highly detailed and accurate view of a job site. Drones can gather all types of information, from elevation levels to earthworks and building foundations. Drones can also be used to conduct structural inspections during and after the construction process is completed. Structural engineers can use drones for tasks that might be difficult for a human crew to perform.
Drones also free up workers for other tasks. Inspectors can use them to spot dangerous aspects of the job site, from the risk of exposure to toxic elements or instability in structures. Drones are no longer a surprise to construction professionals and engineers.
4. Digital Simulation Technologies
Digital engineering provides engineers with new ways to simulate job sites and structural designs. Digital engineering technology is more effective and allows for advanced prototyping of structures. Digital simulation tools allow structural engineers to simulate the structural integrity of a building before the first shovel hits the dirt.
Digital simulation tools of this type also allow engineers to keep aesthetics in mind even as they pay close attention to the structure’s potential structural integrity. The use of design software helps engineers identify the main structural members. In turn, they can use more detailed digital processing to assess the building’s final look and structural performance.
Simulation tools like these are becoming ever more important as buildings become more complex. Intricate structures built with novel new materials can be planned out digitally and evaluated with advanced simulation methods.
5. 3D Printing
If there is one technology that has upended the way many different industries build products and structures, it is 3D printing. Additive manufacturing, as it is called, can be used to build entire structures. Using 3D printing significantly reduces the amount of labor required on a project.
Additive manufacturing is also great for creating components that otherwise would be difficult to manufacture with traditional methods. Advanced 3D printing machines can build structures using all sorts of materials, from steel to composite materials. This kind of flexibility gives designers and engineers more flexibility in their designs.
Here at McNeil Engineering, we stand at the forefront of engineering technology and design. For more information on how we can help you with your next big project, get in touch with us today!