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Getting started guide

This guide is intended to be read before using IDEA StatiCa Connection for the first time. By doing so, the user will avoid some common mistakes that can potentially lead to erroneous results. The information contained herein is considered introductory and cannot replace in any way the detailed information contained in our online resource centre. Moreover, the online sources are constantly updated with new information about the use and principles of using the software.
We strongly advise that you also read our theoretical background at least once prior to using the software.

10 things you should know before using IDEA StatiCa Connection

1. The fictional node principle

IDEA StatiCa’s intention is to model steel connections. In this respect, the connection must feature a single identifiable node where all members converge, no matter how complex this connection can be. Please bear in mind that small eccentricities of some members in relation to the node are taken into account by the Finite Element model and do not create any issues to the fictional node concept.

On the other hand, if more than one node can be identified in the model, then this can probably be classified as a structure and the approach followed by IDEA StatiCa might be inappropriate and lead to erroneous results.

The Engineer must use his/her engineering judgement to identify if a connection can be considered as one or more nodes and use the appropriate approach.

2. Forces definition can change position of loading

Load effects are defined at the fictional node by default. The user is free to modify the location of the load definition on a member-by-member basis, though. This is something that is a requirement for some cases either from the code (e.g. AISC or SCI fin plate design) or the design specification.

The possible settings of the “Forces in” property are shown below:

Before using this feature, the user must be aware that different load positions produce different results.

3. Forces should ideally be in equilibrium at the node

It is common practice for consultants to distribute loads for connection design in the form of loading tables from envelope results, meaning that stress components are non-coexistent.

These loads create an unrealistic stress field. In our solution, this unrealistic stress state is reflected on the model and can potentially lead to failures.

Please note, that this is not a peculiarity of IDEA StatiCa, as such stress states would produce failures in the original global design model, if these maximum stress components were applied simultaneously. This problem is exacerbated by the number of connecting members.

To avoid this situation, it is strongly advised to use more than one combination for your designs, originating from the original global design model. It is known that results for each combination are in equilibrium around nodes.

The use of our BIM links makes the transition from the global model to connection design simple and error proof.

Furthermore, IDEA StatiCa offers a very easy way to identify any unbalanced forces in your model, by enabling the Loads in Equilibrium button. These are the forces that will be balanced by the reactions of the members that are defined as bearing.

For a detailed discussion of the subject, read through section 3 of our theoretical background. You can also quickly go through this FAQ entry.

4. Moment sign convention follows the right-hand rule

The sign of moments does not follow the classic statics convention. Moments follow the right-hand rule around the local axis of the member.

To display the local axis of a member, you should activate the LCS button in the Labels ribbon pane.

To define a positive moment around an axis, the user must point with his right thumb to the positive side of this axis. Then the curl of the fingers represents a rotation that reflects the positive moment around this axis.

5. Buckling analysis is highly recommended

Although it is possible that for stocky connections buckling analysis may not be critical, it is considered an integral part of the CBFEM method. As such, it is highly recommended to perform buckling analysis after the standard Stress/Strain analysis, to ensure that its limits (see section 3.9 of theoretical background), are respected, and to prove that the strength predicted from stress-strain analysis can be fully developed.

Additionally, buckling of connection components can influence the stability of the whole structure. In this case, we can say that the type of buckling mode is global. Otherwise, the buckling mode is called local.

It is very important to point out, that different critical factor lower limits (αcr,limit) are applicable for different types of buckling modes. For local buckling modes, a critical factor lower limit of 3 can be adopted, while for global buckling modes, a lower limit of 15 should be adopted (for detailed information see section 4.9 of our Eurocode theoretical background part).

Unfortunately, the type of buckling shape is subject to engineering judgement and cannot be decided by the software. It is the responsibility of the user to decide which type of buckling applies to his model by looking at the deformed buckling shapes.

6. Default member length should not be modified

When we add a member to the model, its length is calculated automatically by the software based on the height of the cross-section.

The calculation algorithm is part of the CBFEM method and is calibrated after numerical and experimental results.

The calculated member length ensures that proper stress diffusion will take place in accordance with the CBFEM methodology.

In case an element or a modification (bolt holes, notches, openings etc) is added to this member the software will adjust the overall length accordingly in order to maintain a distance from the discontinuity.

However, the software allows the change of the default factor for the member length calculation, through the “Code setup” settings, which then influences the overall length. Users are strongly advised to leave this value to the default, as such changes can influence the results significantly. All our verifications were performed with the default settings.

So, if the user decides to modify this setting, he/she must be able to adequately justify this.

7. Weld conventions are based on selected code

It is important to know that different codes use different conventions for the weld definition. The American code, for example, uses leg lengths while Eurocode uses throat thicknesses for the calculation. This convention is respected throughout the whole project, including the report output and drawings.

Therefore, it is the user’s responsibility to adjust these weld sizes when required, in order to communicate them with third parties (e.g. fabricators) that use different conventions.

Tip on the selection of code:

During the creation of the project, the user must choose the design code that will be used. Since this cannot be changed afterwards, the user must be careful and select the appropriate code before starting to model. Otherwise, the model must be created from scratch.

8. Connections with cold-formed sections

IDEA StatiCa Connection is a tool primarily dedicated to the assessment of connections of hot-rolled members, which are not significantly affected by buckling. Geometrically linear and material non-linear analysis is performed because of its fast and stable calculation. However, this type of analysis does not account for the loss of stability for each calculation step, as the buckling analysis is linear, while loss of stability requires a geometrically nonlinear analysis to be performed.

If you insist on using IDEA StatiCa Connection for checking thin-walled (cold-formed) member connections, make sure that you are an experienced user of the software and be prepared to carefully apply your engineering judgement to, at least, the following points:

  • Perform linear buckling analysis and carefully evaluate each buckling shape. Please bear in mind that the 5 first calculated buckling shapes might not be enough.
  • Do not rely on the plasticity of thin-walled members, and instead limit the von Mises stress to yield strength or even lower if required.
  • Be aware that the development of local buckling, which is not accounted for in each calculation step, can redistribute internal forces in components differently.
  • Be aware that the stiffness of components may differ, due to different failure modes or their combination.
  • Be aware that presented checks and detailing of components (e.g. bolts, welds) are following code provisions applicable to hot rolled members. In case relevant code provisions for thin-walled members are different, then the provided checks are not applicable to them.

9. Conceptual design matters!

In IDEA StatiCa Connection, the user is free to model connection topologies that were impossible to be designed previously. The range of provided tools and different types of analysis (buckling, stiffness, etc), offers far greater insight into the behaviour of the designed connections than before.

It is the responsibility of the user to learn, understand and apply these tools to his/her designs, especially if he/she decides to deviate from established and tested connection topologies.

It must be clear that IDEA StatiCa is unable to “correct” conceptual design errors. Although it can help to prevent them, with the correct application of the provided toolset.

Example:

Conceptually wrong connection with missing top row, seemingly passes all code checks, but with the use of Deformed shape tool, excessive deformation and concentration of plastic strains are revealed. This can probably cause serviceability problems but without catastrophic failure (such as fracture).

10. For Eurocode, the software applies the stock Eurocode text

The calculation method regarding plates is based on non-linear material properties, so it is valid independent of code provisions.

Since in its default state the software uses the stock Eurocode text values, it is the user’s responsibility to verify that the code setup settings are aligned with the desired regional NA provisions.

Tip on code setup settings:

You can also activate the Detailing option to automatically check bolt hole distances and bolt edge distances according to “Check settings” category. The default values are based on code provisions.

For any questions regarding this guide or the features of IDEA StatiCa, please contact us at support@ideastatica.uk