Advance Steel and Revit Interoperability

Share data between these two highly capable programs to simplify your steel workflow.

Advance Steel is a 3D modeling and detailing program built on top of AutoCAD, meant to enable structural engineering professionals to quickly produce the drawings and other documents needed to fabricate and construct steel-framed structures. As such, it automates the creation of shop drawings, bills of materials, and NC files.

Since it is based on AutoCAD, you can create the steel frame for a building entirely in Advance Steel, and Advance Steel does indeed provide lots of tools for laying out grid lines, placing columns and beams, and adding other components, such as bar joists, cross-bracing, stairs, decking, and so on. I therefore assumed that most users would create the steel frame for the building entirely in Advance Steel, and began developing the new CADLearning course with that approach in mind.

Well… it turns out that users most often model the structural steel frame of the building in Revit, as part of the overall building information model (BIM). This provides both a physical model of the columns and beams, and an analytical model that can be evaluated using various engineering software. And that’s fine. But all of that steel also requires fabrication drawings, something not readily done with Revit. That’s where a program like Advance Steel comes into play. Unfortunately, the lack of intelligent data synchronization caused a disconnect between the building model and those fabrication drawings.

Solving the Data Disconnect

Advance Steel was originally developed by the European company GRAITEC before being acquired by Autodesk in 2013. Until recently, many users produced steel fabrication drawings entirely in Advance Steel by recreating information already in the Revit model. But with the recent introduction of a pair of add-ins, that methodology is quickly changing.

 

You can download the Advance Steel Extension for Revit from the Autodesk App Store.

You can download the Advance Steel Extension for Revit from the Autodesk App Store.

The Advance Steel Extension for Autodesk Revit enables users to exchange data between Revit and Advance Steel. Versions of the extension are available for Revit 2015 R2, Revit 2016, and Revit 2017 and can be downloaded from the Autodesk App Store. Once this free add-in has been installed, Revit users can export a Revit Structure model, saving it in the SMLX (Steel Markup Language) format. During the export process, you can choose to export the entire model or just selected items, export only structural elements or include slabs and footings, and so on. The resulting file is a fraction of the size of the original Revit file, making it easy to exchange as an email attachment. That SMLX file can then be easily imported into Advance Steel, eliminating the need to recreate any existing information.

Once installed, you can easily export the Revit model in the SMLX format and import the model into Advance Steel.

Once installed, you can easily export the Revit model in the SMLX format and import the model into Advance Steel.

You can then utilize all of the tools in Advance Steel to add connections, cross-bracing, base plates, handrails, and so on. Once all of the fabrication details have been incorporated into the model, it generally takes just two clicks to generate each of the various assembly, fabrication, and erection drawings that comprise a complete set of steel shop drawings. Each of these drawings, as well as bills of materials and NC files, are then coordinated using the Advance Steel Document Manager.

Since changes to the original structural model are often made after the fabricator has already begun creating shop drawings, the Advance Steel Extension also includes a synchronization tool. After exporting a new SMLX file from the updated Revit model, you can use the Synchronize tool in Advance Steel to quickly compare changes, while still maintaining all of the connections and other elements you have added. Color coding helps identify elements that have been added, deleted, or modified. You can then select the appropriate changes and quickly update the Advance Steel model.

You can use the Synchronize tool to identify differences between the Advance Steel model and the updated Revit model.

You can use the Synchronize tool to identify differences between the Advance Steel model and the updated Revit model.

The Document Manager clearly indicates any drawings that have been affected by changes. A single click then updates those drawings. If the drawings have already been issued, Advance Steel even automatically generates revision clouds and updates drawing title blocks.

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The structural engineer can then use similar methods to ensure that the fabrication drawings match the structural model. You can export an SMLX file from Advance Steel and then use an identical Synchronization tool—added as part of the Advance Steel Extension for Revit—to compare it to the Revit model. Again, any variations are clearly color-coded, making it easy to identify changes.

The Advance Steel Extension for Revit ends the data disconnect. It enables a logical workflow whereby the engineer designs the structural model in Revit, the fabricator imports that model as the basis for manufacturing the steel components, and the structural engineer can then validate those fabrication drawings against the structural model. Using a single unified model from design to documentation reduces errors, improves productivity, and results in better project coordination.

But wait…there’s more

By default, Revit includes only a generic steel connection. But as our use of BIM evolves to incorporate increasing levels of detail, engineers will need to deliver a fabrication-level structural model within Revit. To facilitate this, Autodesk has created the Steel Connections add-in for Revit. If you have used the Autodesk Desktop app to install updates, this add-in may already be installed. Otherwise, you can log into your Autodesk account to see all of the Autodesk products for which you have a license. After selecting Revit, you can access a list of available updates and add-ons, locate the Steel Connections for Autodesk Revit 2017 add-on, and download and install the software.

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Once installed, all of the steel connections available in Advance Steel will also be available in Revit. The structural engineer can then include the actual connections within the BIM model as part of the initial design. Once added, those connections will be included in the SMLX file exported to Advance Steel.

 

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