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Tekla Tedds review - An overlooked essential

Tekla Tedds timber stud design output laid on desk next to laptop

Tekla Tedds review by David Chadwick for Construction Computing magazine

An essential tool for structural and civil engineers that is frequently overlooked - perhaps because of its ability to handle engineering calculations and produce professional results simply and without fuss.

Tekla Tedds is one of those Cinderella applications that sit in the background supporting the exciting design oriented software, but lacking the glamour that comes with its more creative sisters. It fulfils the needs of the design engineer, though, by providing a powerful set of functions to automate and solve the many complex mathematical problems of the design.

To tell the truth, I have wanted to review the software for some time, but have always abandoned the idea in favour of some new features of its sibling applications - Tekla Structures and Tekla Structural Designer, or the glamour of a case study highlighting the use of either of these in one project or another. But, enough of this allegory - I spoke at length to Ben Goldsworthy of Trimble learning about the extent of the software's capabilities, and the new features in the latest version, recently released.

Tedds - Tekla drawing and documentation system

Tedds was developed to provide structural and civil engineers with an easy to use calculation tool that spanned the entire gamut of engineering without having to dive into Excel. Everybody is familiar with spreadsheets, but as the aim of most of the calculations is to support some form of text based documentation or report, it was felt that it would be a lot easier to provide tools within the most commonly used word processing application - Microsoft's Word.

Tedds has been around for some years, now, allowing a substantial library of calculations in different categories to be accumulated, fulfilling the need for an out-of-the-box solution for most users.

More advanced users can, though, develop their own calculations using TEDDS capabilities. An overstatement, perhaps, as the software is easy enough for any engineer to use, giving them access to many calculations they are already familiar with, but which take time and money to set up, and if the calculation uses a lot of iterations, to run them automatically.

The range of calculations currently available include, for example, loading calculations for seismic and wind, continuous beam and rolling load analysis , the design of beams and columns in steel, concrete and timber and a wide range of connections, including base plates and simple connections.

Tekla Tedds retaining wall analysis output in pdf viewer

A Tedds outline

How does Tedds work? If you can take an absolutely basic calculation - 1+1=? - all you need to enter is the calculation using the familiar Boolean format, or to set up straightforward linear equations (most structural calculations are, in fact, linear equations) in an Excel like grid - and then run the calculation. The user interface recognizes all of the units within each of the fields, including those written in Greek, or that use sub and superscripts - and, like Excel, updating the values within result boxes, either as the final result or to use for further calculation.

Each calculation is handled as a single solution for all elements and materials, using a simple intuitive interface that lays out the calculations in an easily read, and easy to check way. Its simplicity also makes it easy to check and compare design options, or to make changes to the calculation. Using Tedds for Word, a specifically integrated version of TEDDS within the MS application, enables engineers to produce consistent documents and reports conforming to
industry standards or a company's own requirements - you can, for instance, headline each document with your own logo. Calculation standards conform to British Standards, Eurocode and US, Canadian and Australian codes.

Another advantage of its use within Word is that you don't have to be a technical writer if you want to create your own calculations. You can write, store and distribute your own, or place them in a library for others to use.

Tedds for Word, besides allowing multiple calculations to be incorporated within a single document, also allows input from other applications. It can also be used to link files, and to copy the results from one into another calculation, and even, if necessary, integrate external spreadsheets with Tedds using the applications Excel Link tool.

Tekla Tedds dialog for Masonry column design with printed output

Combining analysis and calculations

Taking a common task for Tedds, such as frame analysis, users can use the software to analyse the stresses on trusses, cranked beams and portal frames, visualizing the input and results graphically and in real-time, and then to link the results to Tedds calculations, or to embed the frame analysis results within a bespoke calculation. Engineers can then use this as the basis for compiling a single projects results in a document including notes, sketches, and, if necessary, photographs. The document can include greater levels of detail as and where needed. It also avoids the need for using separate analysis software for the project. The final document can then be exported as a standard PDF file.

Tedds in detail

Tedds provides a number of basic functions that allow users to interrogate or manipulate data within each of its fields. Each of these fields is a basic box which handles data in a number of formats - UDL, Mapping, Inputs and Calculations. Using each of these the engineer can create a dialogue on each page laying it out to create a whole form.

The fields are designed to show and describe what is in each of them, to provide data lists to be used as variables, or data tables and graphs as additional data sources, such as the Excel Link highlighted above, and, finally, the calculation. There is also another function available - the Log field. This enables the user to interrogate the calculation and to provide details of its progress or to maintain a progress log.

The progress log, which could be used to show a considerable level of detail, can be filtered, or rolled up, to provide just headline data, or to be able to display progress on a single screen.

Engineer sat at computer using Tekla Tedds

Tedds project manager

To enable engineers to keep track of the many calculations they are likely to use on a single project, Tedds includes a Project Manager, appearing in a separate Project Manager Window, that allows them to create and name a project, add files and calculations, or to insert new calculations in a current project. All of the calculations are presented in browser format, and their order can be manipulated by dragging them up or down or new calculations can be dragged in from a current calculation.

A curious omission

During all my research, and in spite of my earlier chat with Ben at Trimble, I had been unable to ascertain the origin or the full title of Tedds - not that it matters, as it is well known in its current format. Its capabilities, however, are well known in structural and civil engineering industries, and is recognized as one of their most useful and essential tools - but now I have been informed by Ben that its original title, proposed by Ted Yeadon, MD of CSC in 1990, was The Engineers Document and Design System - I think I prefer the current name.

Learn more about Tekla Tedds