Modular Manufacturing

DfMA and Offsite construction requires a buildable design a lot earlier on in the process than ‘traditional’ builds; Building Information Modelling (BIM) can support this, as the models created contain a constructible level of detail for all stages of the process. Here, Chris Gatehouse, Regional Sales Manager at Trimble Solutions (UK) Ltd. discusses the benefits of BIM and how it can drive modular manufacturing to improve speed and accuracy.

Although prefabrication buildings first became popular after the Second World War, when there was a need for the rapid construction of buildings, there has been a resurgence of interest in recent years in modular construction, with technological advancements enabling a well-designed, high quality, build that can both be long lasting and sustainable.

Generally, there are two types of distinct modular techniques: panelised and volumetric. Panelised is typically a light steel or timber construction frame, which is factory assembled and then installed on site. Whereas, volumetric construction is a hot rolled steel frame that is infilled with light steel or timber framing, which is then factory finished before being installed on site. Both techniques will include the factory installation of all electrical and plumbing services, M&E, windows and doors and wall finishes. With volumetric manufacturing, kitchens, fixtures, fittings and even furniture can be fully installed prior to delivery on site.

Each of the modular techniques present their own benefits, but one thing that they have in common is the fact that both construction processes can be really sped up if you use an intelligent software like Tekla Structures. It allows you to create constructible, highly detailed and data rich BIM models, which streamlines the design process, helps mitigate errors and coordinate every aspect of the build.

However, there are some people within the industry that may argue 3D modelling for modular construction presents challenges. For example, tolerances on modular projects tend to be quite tight and clashes with welds and natural tolerances in section sizes constantly need to be checked. What’s more, openings for windows and doors often present issues too, as they typically require special construction details, additional strengthening, jambs and headers, all of which impact the form of the modular panels. And lastly, modular builds are inherently based around repetition, which can increase the amount of time spent in the drawing office – especially when being designed in 2D.

Indeed, modular construction does have its challenges but by integrating innovative BIM software within the process, they can be diminished or even mitigated – and Tekla Structures has been designed to do just that. It simplifies and automates the processes involved in the detailing, manufacturer and delivery of construction projects.

Tekla Structures has a proven track record in delivering offsite manufacturing solutions for the steelwork industry, which it has been serving for over 20 years.

The ability to detail to the highest Level of Definition (LOD) means that you are not only building a digital twin of your asset, but you are also able to identify, mitigate and plan the manufacture, logistics and installation before you’ve handled a single physical component of a project.

To assist light metal framing panel detailing, the Tekla team has developed a series of light metal framing components that are available in the Tekla Warehouse library, which provide the tools to model metal framing elements simply and quickly – whether it be a straight, curved or pitched panel. Once the components are added to the model, it automatically details bracings and connections, which removes the need to do it manually. If a window or door frame is added to the panel, the software also automatically strengthens the opening too.

In addition, once the panels have been designed they can be stored within the software in order to reproduce them multiple times for future projects that require a repetitive design – minimising time further.

Tekla Structures multi-material BIM package provides fabrication levels of detail, which significantly reduces the amount of re-work - and therefore time - in the drawing office as the design moves from one discipline to the other.
The drawing output is a product of the model; it enables simpler, more efficient modelling where drawing construction lines, circles and points; and placing customer parts is straightforward – as is the editing. Fabrication drawings are created and updated automatically, as and when the design evolves. Bills of materials are created automatically and can be used at estimating or procurement stages to ensure accuracy in take-off - not achievable with traditional 2D methods.

The open nature of BIM also leads to a more collaborative working relationship with all parties. The 3D model is understandable by all parties and so greater levels of stakeholder engagement can be achieved. This leads to clearly defined project goals and requirements, as well as good management of customer expectations, to ensure that the project actually delivers what is required.

Trimble understands how offsite manufacturers work and as such, it is constantly developing its Tekla software to help you to deliver projects more efficiently.

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Images courtesy of The McAvoy Group


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