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Beyond steel and concrete: How multiple design disciplines are using Tekla Structures as a platform

Tekla Structures as a platform used for scaffolding and piping design visualized on two computer screens

Respected by BIM designers the world over, Tekla Structures is increasingly being used as a platform to create specialized tools for specific construction tasks. Tekla’s open API makes this easier than developers may realize.

The heart of South Africa’s rich mining industry is the province of Gauteng. Here more than 150 mines produce around a quarter of the country’s minerals. Most of it is gold, extracted from vast underground deposits and processed on the surface in specialized plants.
Self-taught BIM expert Marhinus du Plessis has been designing these mineral-processing plants for his entire career. Early on he spotted opportunities to improve the efficiency of plant design – especially the piping – by using BIM tools in non-traditional ways.
“Piping was always done in a separate platform. But then I realized we could bring the piping design into Tekla Structures and automate the entire process with just a few parameters. So I started using the Tekla API to design an add-on myself,” he says.
Fast forward several years and du Plessis is Managing Director of a company he co-founded: ParaMatic. His team has developed a BIM solution of the same name specifically for Mechanical, Electrical and Plumbing (MEP) design. It’s built on top of Tekla Structures. In addition to South Africa, the company has mineral-processing customers in Australia, Turkey and the United States. 
“I’ve used about 10 different CAD or engineering systems during my career. Tekla Structures was always the one that could do more than in the rest. With ParaMatic you can perform tasks in under two minutes that can take hundreds of hours with traditional tools,” says du Plessis.
“I like the fact that Tekla Structures is a database-driven platform where you can assign as many attributes as you want to an object. Then you can use these attributes in various applications – from creating 2D drawings to running reports.”
“It’s also extremely robust. I’ve seen teams of 40 people waste hundreds of hours when unstable platforms crash. Not so with Tekla Structures,” he adds.

Paramatic designs on top of Tekla Structures

Access the code, check the calculations

ParaMatic is representative of the growing recognition Tekla Structures is gaining outside of its traditional use for steel and concrete design. Thanks to its open API, other industries requiring specialized construction can easily customize the software.  
ScaffPlan is an Australian company that has built an end-to-end scaffolding solution on top of Tekla Structures. It’s now used by customers around the world and has completely transformed the industry for scaffolding design and construction.
“When we got started, we did proof of concepts with three different platforms to see which was the most suitable. Tekla was by far the best option. It’s so easy and flexible to work with,” says Simon Boyes, the Founder and CEO of ScaffPlan.
Boyes started out as a scaffold yard laborer and worked his way up to running some of the industry’s most complex projects. ScaffPlan was created to make work faster, more cost-efficient and safer.

“We’ve drawn everything in 3D that scaffolders need. But we’ve also written the code in the background, so engineers can perform calculation checks to make sure designs are safe and strong enough,” he explains.
Pawel Lisowski is ScaffPlan’s Head of Software Development. Another self-taught BIM developer, Lisowoski says complete constructability is what sets Tekla apart from other BIM solutions.
“With Tekla, what you see in the model is what you get on site. No other software can offer constructability to this level of detail,” he explains.
“Thanks to the open API, a developer can talk to Tekla Structures through the code. You have access to all the data behind what you’re modeling. This means you can easily create your desired output, as all the information is there.” 
“It’s really easy too – you do not need a background in computer science,” says Lisowski.

Scaffplan scaffolding solution on top of Tekla Structures

Open to any type of construction

Tekla Structures can be used to model components of standard shapes and sizes, as well as to create custom-fabricated building materials and products. The development team from ParaMatic has been using the open API to bring their customers’ component catalogs into the system. 
“We have an online database where the dimensions of all the objects are listed. Our code then reads that information and draws it into Tekla. This allows us to easily bring in more catalogs. We don’t need to model anything manually – it’s all automatically generated by the code,” says ParaMatic Systems Design Engineer, Francois De Jager.

“Another reason we like Tekla is because the integration between their products is very good. Our draftsmen use Trimble Connect to access the model onsite and make any changes that need doing. Everything is immediately and seamlessly updated without the need to import and export IFC files,” says De Jager.
Both ParaMatic and ScaffPlan are now looking to expand the use of their Tekla-based platforms to support adjacent use cases. ParaMatic is adding specific functionality for handling fire reticulation, plumbing and wastewater. Cable racking and ducting are also in the roadmap. ScaffPlan is developing its software to cover formwork, shoring and other temporary works.
“There's no limitation to what you can do through the API. It doesn’t matter what type of construction you’re designing for – it can be done in Tekla,” says ParaMatic Managing Director Marhinus du Plessis.

Learn more about the possibilities of the Tekla Structures platform.

Developer presenting Tekla Structures development to his team.