Formwork design and installation goes digital

Digital processes in the construction industry are constantly evolving, with formwork design and management being a recent key area of growth. Here, Sales Consultant, Ben Fentem at Trimble explores how formwork businesses can improve productivity.

The ability to model both concrete objects, and the reinforcement within these elements, accurately, now gives the temporary works industry a much-improved starting point for their processes. Combine this with the availability of digital, constructible, formwork and falsework components means that it really is the time for the temporary works industry to seize the opportunities available to them.

Pressure points formwork contractors face
Traditionally, a lot of the time spent by a temporary works designer was the application of standard components onto non-standard solutions based upon limited 2D information – a set of general arrangement drawings. Other than a basic copy and array of 2D CAD blocks, many tasks were both manual and highly repetitive. This manual nature of formwork detailing meant layouts could be inconsistent from one engineer or detailer to the next. What’s more, proper coordination with 2D CAD is virtually impossible, as most formwork CAD blocks were not sufficiently accurate to deliver a truly coordinated design.

 

These complications in designing a temporary works scheme were further compounded when trying to determine accurately all the components needed to deliver the scheme. Inaccurate bills of materials, manually extracted from 2D documents, often meant that too many, too few or the wrong components were delivered to a project. There was also the risk that incorrectly delivered materials were then lost on site as well.

In this 2D world, changes were also difficult to manage when project information was evolving continually, especially having to react whilst maintaining the desired speed, accuracy and quality needed by the site teams.

Improving productivity and coordination
Whilst these are familiar challenges faced by UK formwork contractors, the good news is that things in the concrete world are evolving and software solutions, like Trimble’s Tekla Structures, are providing the necessary digital environment to facilitate greater visibility and some eye-opening improvements to productivity for formwork contractors.

Tekla Structures modelling capabilities enable formwork and temporary works to be designed and managed with accurate information available quickly.

 

Helping to speed up productivity in the office, repetitive tasks can be eliminated, for example using automated, dynamic tools, you can simply click and drag formwork panels along the full length of a concrete wall. Similarly, standard table forms can be laid out easily across the scope of a slab pour with only edge conditions requiring additional detailing. Intelligent placement tools can be used to automate soldier and waler centres as well as placing clamps and ties accurately, with the option to still make manual adjustments if required. With Tekla Structures software, designers also have the ability to choose from a wide range of proprietary components such as PERI and Doka wall and floor systems through the use of its online library, Tekla Warehouse.

Full constructability improves accuracy
This is where modelling really comes in to its own. Not only can the concrete contractor understand how the reinforcement goes together for the concrete elements but the implications of the formwork solution can be fully coordinated too. Ties, embeds, couplers, lift heights and access arrangements can all be coordinated with the permanent works design. By removing clashes in a digital environment, the level of productivity and accuracy on site is increased, delivering a coordinated formwork plan in a more effective way. This not only achieves right first time results but also ensures a safer, more productive workplace.

The combined permanent and temporary works model becomes the single source of truth. Quantities can be taken directly from the model, parts lists can be created easily as well as fully detailed drawings; complete with annotations, dimensions and even 3D visualisations. Outputs can be bespoke but are consistent too, meaning that project teams can receive digital information in the best way for them to allow fast and accurate working. The powerful 3D modelling and BIM capabilities available today really do make the creation of detailed formwork plans faster than ever before. Contractors have full visualisation into how formwork is planned and can more efficiently manage and coordinate their projects.

Communication at all levels is improved, from the estimator and concrete contractor to formwork detailer in the office to the fixer on site. Work can be coordinated and communicated clearly with others using the 3D model, on desktop and mobile – saving time all round. So, what are you waiting for!