SOLIDWORKS and DriveWorks help Laing O’Rourke optimise bridge design

Lindsay James
Lindsay James
By Lindsay James on 17 August 2018
SOLIDWORKS and DriveWorks help Laing O’Rourke optimise bridge design

Construction firm Laing O’Rourke is collaborating with Tony Gee and Partners and Cambridge University to develop a unified digital delivery process for the bridge industry.

Using SOLIDWORKS and DriveWorks technology, the project configures bridge designs from a set of key inputs and a library of parametric components, hosted on Microsoft SQL Server. Microsoft SQL Server Management Suite was used to setup, view and interrogate the data sources directly.

The key focus of the project is to create a common standard by synchronising data and protocols. The aim is to improve interoperability between different parts of the bridge building process.

The project integrates best practices for manufacturing, assembly and design, to ensure consistent data formats and reduce manual processes required between stages. For this to happen, naming conventions and output files from each stage of the process need to be structured and arranged in a systematic way. Using DriveWorks, Laing O’Rourke can specify rules to determine how and where each file is saved.

The project uses standards to simplify bridge processes and reduce the time it takes to complete a bridge. The current design process is complex and typically a fully detailed design would take around 30 weeks to complete.

By digitising the design process with this project, Laing O’Rourke has identified savings that could see bridge designs produced in days or weeks instead of months or years.

The design configuration tools, created using SOLIDWORKS and DriveWorks, provide a smoother digital process for the design, manufacture and assembly of components, which reduces the time it takes to complete a bridge.

“We wanted to implement a system that gave users the ability to make informed decisions so they could quickly see the impact of their decisions on the overall design,” said Laing O’Rourke’s Digital Engineering leader, Scott McGovern, “We’re using DriveWorks in three main areas within our toolset. Firstly, we used the software to build the user interface and capture user defined inputs. We then linked these inputs into our structured dataset that would drive the rules to define component dimensions and features. Finally, we utilised DriveWorks’ design automation capabilities to automate the development of model assemblies and engineering drawings of the bridge.”

By using DriveWorks and SOLIDWORKS, Laing O’Rourke hopes that it will be able to dramatically reduce the time taken to reach the final design of a bridge. This has several benefits as the impact of decisions can be investigated much earlier in the process and reduce the many design iteration cycles that are currently undertaken.

“The impact of design on cost will be quickly realised,” said McGovern. “This allows the design to be truly informed by cost rather than the traditional process of costing up a design. Construction times are likely to be made shorter and component selections will be finalised earlier, this eliminates the need for last minute design changes and reduces delivery risk on the project.

“Bridge design will be simplified to a component led solution, allowing greater ability for design optimisation of the individual components that make up the kit of parts.”

Overall, DriveWorks has allowed Laing O’Rourke to automate the routine processes that it undertakes on its data, day in and day out, with traditional bridge design. “This automatic creation of models and drawings rapidly improves the turnaround time to reach sign-off on designs and makes all of the downstream benefits possible,” said McGovern. “The results give us and our clients confidence in the price and programme. The data that’s generated also allows effective lifecycle quality management from reusable digital assets.”

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