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Bentley Offers Free Data Exchange Tools

February 18, 2010

By Joann Gonchar, AIA, and Tom Sawyer

In an effort to ease the exchange of structural information among construction project participants and between applications, Pennsylvania-based software developer Bentley Systems has released two tools, making them available to users without charge.

The new applications, Structural Synchronizer V8i and Structural Dashboard V8i, released in late January, provide various features, including a shared repository for structural model data, the ability to pass data back and forth among several applications including those created by other vendors, and the capability to track revisions. The dashboard and synchronizer support a workflow management process that Bentley has dubbed Integrated Structural Modeling, or ISM. “Current workflows are fragmented,” says Gus Bergsma, vice president of sales for Bentley’s structural division. “There are engineers, there are architects, and there are fabricators. All of these [entities] are trying to be linked via various industry data exchange standards, with limited success.”

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The new tools are compatible with Bentley’s own structural engineering products, including RAM and STAAD. And Bentley is offering, for free, the application programming interface (API) tools necessary to create an ISM plug-in to any interested vendor. So far, the synchronizer and dashboard support data exchange with the Autodesk building information modeling program Revit, capitalizing on a June 2008 agreement between Bentley and California-based Autodesk to support each other’s APIs and share software libraries. Bentley officials say they expect agreements about ISM compatible plug-ins from additional software vendors over the coming months.

Bentley executives cite two motivations for the release of the workflow products as free downloads. One is that interoperability is good for business, and the other is that the company wants to enable the earlier involvement of construction-phase members of the project team. “We want to try to bring the detailer and the GC much earlier into the process so they are not the last ones to get the model, so they can access the information as it is dynamically changing, and create their detailing model at the same time,” says Santanu Das, Bentley vice president for integrated engineering. “We are looking all the way from upstream to downstream [to get] a lot of people at the table earlier.”

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