Distributed Collaboration: Engineering Practice Requirements
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An extended project was undertaken to develop structural design software (called the integrated software) that supports network collaboration. Three projects preceded this thesis study in which the development of the integrated software was initiated. In these projects three software architectures were developed for a finite element model, a structural steel member design model and a structural steel connection design model. These projects cover the analysis and design aspects of the integrated software. This thesis study addresses the communication aspects of the integrated software. The communication aspects include communication between the various modules of the integrated software as well communication between people and between people and the software. No graphical user interface for the creation of finite element models was developed in the preceding projects, which was done in this thesis. The models developed in the preceding projects must be able to communicate with one another in order for the software to operate as a whole. Some of the communication links required in the integrated software are established in this thesis study. The communication of the integrated software is not to be confined to a local workstation. Therefore a software architecture is built into the integrated software in order to support network communication, thereby making network-based collaborative design a real possibility. The integrated software that is being developed is specifically for use by structural engineers. Therefore the engineers’ opinion of such design software that supports network collaboration is invaluable. In the last part of the thesis practicing engineers the views of are reported on topics of how collaborative designs could be done in practice and how it could be supported by design software. The results of the interviews are then summarized and an assessment is made of the engineers’ requirements for software that supports network collaboration. Finally recommendations are made for the future development of the integrated software.
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