Digital Twins: Taking Construction Modeling to the Next Level

As we reach the midpoint of 2023, an influx of new technologies and AI advancements are flooding the market and revolutionizing the way we do business. One distinct innovation has transformed the future of BIM modeling and steel detailing by bridging the gap between the virtual and the concrete: the digital twin.  

What Is a Digital Twin? 

Simply put, a digital twin is a virtual representation of a real-life object, but the capabilities of a digital twin extend far beyond that of your average 3D model. A digital twin links the model to the structure’s performance data and all relevant systems through IoT technologies installed on the products, such as sensors, cameras and 3D laser scanners. The digital twin is then able to automatically update the status of the connected structure, offering insights on physical orientation, stress loads, electrical systems and maintenance concerns.  

How Is a Digital Twin Used? 

A digital twin can provide an exact replica of any construction product, including buildings, bridges, highways or even entire cities. Once the digital twin is created, engineers and detailers can simulate changes to the project without incurring any real-world consequences, such as cost or wasted resources. For example, the resilience of a bridge can be tested based on potential traffic patterns and environmental stressors to see how varying the support structures can increase its load capacity—all without erecting a single beam.  

Because the data offers real-time updates, the digital twin can also help monitor and predict maintenance concerns once the structure is in place, thereby optimizing its lifespan.  

What Are the Benefits of a Digital Twin? 

Digital twins offer numerous practical advantages for businesses within the steel industry, including: 

  1. Preventative Maintenance: As mentioned above, the data collected by the digital twin can help identify potential problems before they cause serious damage to the asset. By implementing preventative maintenance and scheduling inspections when indicated by the digital twin, you can minimize unplanned downtime and maximize the performance of the equipment.  
  1. Risk Reduction: The use of simulation lowers the risk of testing new products or methods by saving valuable time and resources. On an operational level, it also improves worker safety by minimizing equipment malfunction and reducing the need for workers in the field through remote data collection.  
  1. Up-to-Date Information: Digital twins bridge the gap between the office and the job site by providing accurate, real-time information throughout each phase of construction.  
  1. Employee Training: Digital twins can be a powerful training tool as they allow trainees to work with accurate replicas of machines and processes without interfering with real-life production.  
  1. Cost Savings: Ultimately, digital twins can help improve your bottom line by optimizing efficiency, minimizing equipment failure and reducing the need for rework.  

Anatomic Iron Steel Detailing excels in both 3D and BIM modeling to support our steel detailing services Contact us to get started on your next detailing project!   

Five Tips to Reduce Plant Welding Costs

As with any business, steel fabricators  are constantly looking for ways to control costs and maximize profit without sacrificing the quality of their work. However,  saving money in the long term requires a concentric focus on decreasing costs associated with labor and overhead more than on buying the cheapest materials and equipment, or securing the lowest subcontractor to work with.  

For a steel fabricator, welding takes up a majority of a fitter’s time. Therefore, the efficiency of welding has a major impact on labor hours and overall plant costs. Larger plants with major capital investment at their disposal are able to invest in robot welding equipment to reduce this cost, but there are many steps that mid-sized and smaller fabricators can take to reduce this cost without making major plant investment. 

Outlined below are five practical ways to reduce welding costs that can be implemented easily in any facility: 

  1. Don’t Overweld. Many shops try to “play it safe” by instructing fitters or detailers to place a larger weld than what is called for in the design. However, overwelding leads to a significant amount of wasted material, which equates to unnecessary costs. Using a larger weld can also damage the mechanical integrity of the welded assembly due to added distortion from the additional heat input. Instead, fitters should follow the specifications in the design precisely by using a fillet weld gauge. This simple change will lead to large savings and higher quality throughput. 
  2. Control Shielding Gas Usage. Shielding gas is a necessary expense of welding, but many shops use at least twice as much gas as needed, which means they end up spending at least double the amount of money. A common cause of excessive gas usage is high flow rates. It is essential for welders to stay within the range specified in the weld procedures. Newer technology can also allow for lower flow rates to achieve the same results that formerly required more gas, which can lead to large cost savings.  
  3. Choose the Right Welding Consumables. In some cases, welding accessories and consumables can comprise up to 80% of the total welding production cost. Many companies try to reduce this cost by ordering cheaper consumables, but this approach only leads to more expenses in the long run due to more frequent changeover. Instead, investing in higher quality consumables that can withstand high temperatures for a longer duration can save both time and money.  
  4. Prioritize Preventative Maintenance. Scheduling downtime for equipment maintenance can help keep production flowing smoothly and lower the cost and manhours involved in troubleshooting welding problems after they appear. This is especially true if downtime happens in the middle of a shift, causing labor hours to be lost. 
  5. Improve Employee Retention. Another factor that is often overlooked when examining costs is the overall work environment. High turnover rates lead to more time and money invested in new employee training. Having a strong work culture and attractive benefits can also help retain your developed and skilled workers who are then able to complete the work more efficiently to your fabrication facility standards.  

Reducing welding costs doesn’t have to be complicated. By implementing these small changes in your company, you could save significantly each year, leading to higher profit margins.  

Need more help planning and budgeting your project? Contact Anatomic Iron Steel Detailing. Through our value engineering services, our experienced team will review your project and find areas of improvement in the steel design and erection to help lower fabrication, erection, and material costs, which will lower the overall project cost. 

Highly Complex Curved Steel Detailing

Steel structures have become an essential part of modern architecture and construction, but not all steel structures are created equal. Complex structures with curved and twisted steel members require specialized expertise to ensure proper detailing and successful field erection.  

Anatomic Iron Steel Detailing has developed several custom Tekla components and plug-ins to represent curved steel structures accurately on two-dimensional drawings. One such plug-in is a table of XYZ coordinates that provides the exact deflection of the element along the length of the piece. This information is crucial for successfully bending a steel element that does not have a constant radius. 

Proper detailing of curved steel elements is tantamount to project success since cambered elements do not allow any margin for error when erecting the structure in the field.  

One prominent example of Anatomic Iron’s curved steel detailing work is the Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) in Costa Mesa, CA. Eight detailers from Anatomic Iron worked on the OCMA project, which was completed in 2021.  

Designed by Morphosis, the new $73-million facility features 25,000 square feet of permanent exhibition space, an increase of nearly 50 percent, as well as 10,000 square feet of multipurpose space. 

The design includes several flowing, irregular structure houses built to provide intimate small art galleries, as well as a rooftop terrace exhibiting sculptural works that can serve as a venue for large-scale events. The building also features a soaring lobby and atrium with a grand staircase at its center.  

The OCMA project received the prestigious Innovative Design in Engineering and Architecture with Structural Steel (IDEAS2) National Award from the American Institute of Steel Construction (AISC). 

“The use of steel throughout the building is both obvious and in some ways obfuscated, which told the jury that the architect and the structural engineers really understand the unique qualities and material capabilities of structural steel and found ways to use it to their design advantage–not just as a structural solution, but really more as a way of expressing and hiding the structure to play with the visitor’s ability to understand the building.” 

– Anders Lasater, American Institute of Architects, Contest Judge 

The museum’s innovative and thought-provoking design shows that the building itself is truly a work of art. 

To help ensure the success of your next project involving complex curved steel elements, be sure to contact Anatomic Iron Steel Detailing. Our expertise and state-of-the-art technologies will make sure that all curved and twisting steel members join together flawlessly in the field.  

When Steel Detailing Meets Precast Concrete

With any construction project, it’s important that all the parts come together as seamlessly as possible, and this requires strong communication and coordination between each member of the construction team. But the more people and companies involved in a project, the more disjointed this team can become.

This is why Anatomic Iron Steel Detailing expanded our services to include precast concrete detailing. By having the same team perform both the structural steel and the precast detailing, the overall process can be completed more efficiently and smoothly, thereby saving time and ensuring that all steel and precast concrete elements mesh perfectly in the field and can be erected without issues.

The precast concrete industry is rapidly expanding as more and more businesses recognize the advantages of building with precast concrete as opposed to traditional cast-in-place concrete. Some of these benefits include:

  • Quality assurance, as the products are manufactured in a controlled environment where the process is carefully monitored to ensure no deformities are present.
  • Cost efficiency, as the process cuts back on time and increases quality and productivity.
  • Durability, as precast concrete is weatherproof and fireproof, resists rust and mildew, supports heavy loads and requires minimal maintenance.
  • Versatility, as precast concrete can be cast in a variety of sizes, shapes and colors to meet client specifications.
  • Environmental sustainability, as the process minimizes waste and avoids toxic byproducts entering the ground or water supply onsite or at the factory.

The first precast concrete project our team completed was “The Blu,” a luxury apartment complex in Sioux Falls, SD. In collaboration with Albertson Engineering, our team quickly learned the specific industry standards for precast concrete structures, and we were able to use our experience in Tekla modeling to solve rebar conflicts and geometry issues, ensuring that the building could be erected within the schedule.

More recently, we have been working on the FoundryLine Residences at 38th and Blake in Denver, CO. This condominium complex is being constructed with a mix of precast concrete and steel elements, which has showcased the way efficient coordination between precast and steel detailing can streamline the building process.

Other precast concrete detailing projects from Anatomic Iron include the Career Tech and Education Center at Spearfish High School in Spearfish, SD, and Allison Village condominiums in Arvada, CO.

Our precast detailing services include erection and precast shop drawings; marking plans; wall-panel, associated beam and column detailing; and full coordination between all precast and steel elements.

Contact us today to see how Anatomic Iron can help take your next precast concrete project to the next level.

Guiding Your Team Through Change

A healthy business is an evolving business. As we assess procedures, evaluate successes and failures and set new goals, we know that change is a valuable though sometimes painful process. Even when change is necessary, it brings discomfort.

How can you equip your team—in the shop, on the project site or in the office—to deal with major organizational shifts within your business?

Lead well.

Good leadership in this area begins with a plan. Explain to your team when, how and even why these specific changes are necessary. Provide a timeline to describe the rollout and prepare responses to potential questions. Make certain that new (and old) tasks and responsibilities are clearly defined for all involved.

Communicate more, not less.

Pay attention to communication before, during and after major organizational change. You want to be transparent about what is happening, acknowledging up front that change is coming and explaining the impact that will occur.

Be accessible to your team and keep them updated, even if you just briefly check in to put their minds at ease. Hold team meetings and open up the floor to questions. Invite one-on-one discussion with individuals, and really listen to their needs, concerns and fears. Be realistic and transparent with your team by acknowledging potential challenges, and then reassure them with confidence and clarity that you have their best interests in mind.

Train intentionally.

Once employees know where the business is going, show them how you will get there. Give them clear direction about the training that will take place to learn new products or processes. Remember that you will all need time to adjust and learn together. Provide consistent oversight through the training and adaptation process. Communicate the metrics you will use to gauge success and set goals for some early milestones and quick wins to encourage the whole team.

Change brings fear, which can lead to fatigue. The more you can put employees’ fears to rest, the more energy and excitement they will have surrounding a change. Help your team understand the value of the change and reassure them that because they are part of the team, you will all be equipped to face the future together.

The Wisdom of Preparation

No one wants to imagine an emergency that would put our workplace and team members in danger, but we must be realistic about potential emergencies so that we can mitigate their consequences.

Emergencies that affect our office environments or fabrication plants can be natural or manmade. Whether you experience a data breach, computer virus or a natural disaster, your company needs a plan. How can you prepare?

First, realistically analyze the possibilities. Consider what could happen depending on your plant’s location and areas of vulnerability. Be mindful of potential internal emergencies as well.

Next, prep your tech. Continually back up all data, records and even your processes to the cloud. Scan and upload physical documents and save them to the cloud as well. Online storage is inexpensive, and the data backup process is straightforward. Also, walk through your plant and make a list or video record of all the company’s physical assets. Include serial numbers and costs so any damaged equipment can be reported to your insurance company quickly. Upload this document to the cloud as well.

Next, it’s time to make a disaster action plan based on potential scenarios. You can find many action plan templates online, such as this one. Your first priority is always employee safety, so establish a clear chain of events to get your team members to a secure location. Include things in your plan such as building exits and how to account for all employees. Then decide on your most important secondary objectives and how they will be accomplished. Consider short and long-term alternatives that could allow you to resume business as usual. For example, in the event of damage to your plant, is there a location where your team could temporarily relocate?

Now that you have an actionable plan, it’s time to communicate the plan with all employees. If no one knows your disaster action plan, it will be of no value. Provide multiple hard copies of your disaster action plan and distribute them at all key locations in your shop to improve accessibility.

In addition to sharing the plan with your entire team, consider how you will communicate during an emergency. If your shop loses power or internet access, you will need alternate methods of contacting people inside and outside the company. Include a communication strategy for contacting law enforcement or safety personnel.

Train your team. Make sure they are familiar with the plan and practice it so there is no question about what to do. This also provides an opportunity to discover potential shortfalls and make necessary adjustments.

Finally, consider what actions should be taken to spread accurate information to stakeholders. Once the crisis has passed and everyone is safe, you will want to inform customers and employers. Provide updates via available means so that they understand potential problems or delays. 

Anatomic Iron Steel Detailing is not a fabricator, but we have had a well-developed disaster plan in place since 2008. We were lucky in this respect, as we used this plan at the start of the pandemic and already had established technology relationships to migrate our office and staff to a work-from-home scenario quickly and effectively.

No one knows what the next disaster will be, but the best protection is to be prepared, even if it is with a simple plan and some commercial relationships with local providers who can assist your business.

You can’t control the world around you, but you can be prepared to respond to different scenarios and help your team be ready to face them.

Anatomic Iron Cares Foundation

The Anatomic Iron Cares Foundation formed out of the belief that when we work together and combine our compassion, energy and resources we can alleviate suffering and provide help for the hurting. So when Ukrainians began to flee their war-torn country earlier this year, we turned our sights to how we could assist refugees searching for safety and a new start.

The Ukrainian Refugee Housing Center in Proszowice, Poland, was an ideal location to accomplish this mission. We knew that we could help make this a haven for refugees who needed a transitional home as they looked for work and more permanent housing.

Many corporations and individuals generously contributed to the Foundation, enabling us to fully fund all the projects we sought to accomplish there. With the help of many donors, the Foundation has been able to:

  • Install a full-size sanitary kitchen on the second floor with a cooktop, multiple refrigerators, microwaves, cupboards and shelves.
  • Provide a furnished dining area so families could eat together instead of having to eat in their rooms or eat in an outdoor (sometimes chilly!) gathering area.
  • Equip a laundry room space with two washers, two dryers and areas to hang and iron clothes.
  • Set up additional beds and bedding to accommodate more residents in a shared living space.
  • Establish an additional three rooms in the long-term housing area with 10 additional private beds.
  • Help meet the rising costs of heating the Center as a result of a major increase in the price of natural gas.

These improvements have increased capacity in the Housing Center by almost 30 people to a total of 120 and have also improved the quality of daily life for residents. They can now cook their own hot meals, enjoy eating together in a shared space, and wash clothes regularly, a much-needed service that allows these individuals to be dressed and ready for school and work each day. We have raised over $25,000 to date, with 100 percent of these funds going directly to support the Housing Center.

When Anatomic Iron representatives recently visited the Center, they spent time with the residents and listened to their amazing stories.

Vitalina, a 36-year-old mother from Skvyra, lives in the Center with her two sons, ages 10 and 3. Vitalina and her children slept most nights in a bomb shelter before they finally fled Ukraine by car. Vitalina drove west, not knowing where she could go for safety. When she crossed the border into Poland, a volunteer gave her the address of the Housing Center. There she was welcomed, and her children were cared for.

“Now,” Vitalina says, “we are calm and secure.” With gratitude and joy, she showed our team members her large room where she and the boys each have their own bed, a refrigerator, and TV and storage. She says, “I want to thank all those who gave my children the chance to live an almost normal life.”

For Vitalina and more than 250 other individuals who have lived in the Housing Center during the last nine months, the Center has been a place where daily life could continue and where displaced people could get back on solid ground.

We are grateful to for all those who contributed to funding the renovations and upgrades needed to make the Center a place of refuge for so many. Thank you for your generosity and for the difference you made.

For more information about the Anatomic Iron Cares Foundation and our global relief and assistance efforts, visit

Thank you to these corporate sponsors:

Larson Engineering

KL&A Engineers & Builders

Western Slope Iron & Supply, Inc.

Banker Steel Company

Anatomic Iron Cares Foundation

High Plains Steel Services, LLC

Virtual Image & Animation

Prioritizing Preventive Maintenance

To motivate the people of Philadelphia to put a fire safety plan in place, Ben Franklin famously said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Franklin wanted to protect his city and save lives, but this wisdom applies to many scenarios. Taking proactive steps to prevent future problems is more efficient and effective than reacting to a problem when it occurs. It is easier to stop a problem from happening in the first place rather than trying to correct or repair an issue, which usually occurs under a time crunch with significant financial pressure.

How can steel fabricators bring a proactive mentality to shop maintenance? They can begin by taking care of their equipment using systematic scheduling maintenance. This includes scheduling simple tasks like cleanings, changing oil and other lubricants, inspecting for fraying or damaged wires and replacing parts before they reach a critical level of burnout. Preventive maintenance (PM) can be calendar-based and occur at regular, predictable intervals; it can be based on usage amounts; or it can even be based on historical data.

Sophisticated prescriptive maintenance uses tools, software and sensors to collect and analyze maintenance data and suggest the best options for equipment maintenance. Across the globe, the steel industry is investing more and more in PM software because of the high demand for steel and the high cost of unexpected equipment failure.

Each fabrication shop has its own unique identity in terms of schedule, production, location, weather conditions, run time, budget and many more distinct factors. Having a specialized PM program means that maintenance can occur when your shop needs it and will benefit from it, without letting maintenance issues fall through the cracks unresolved.

PM not only prevents problems, but it also increases the accuracy and performance of the machines your team relies on. Just as getting the oil changed in your car at regular intervals prolongs the life of your engine, regular preventive maintenance prolongs your equipment’s life cycle. This also means you get a better return on your investment as the machinery you purchase lasts longer.

PM can be performed during scheduled downtime, reducing the amount of time lost to cleaning and fixing broken equipment at unexpected times. Rather than taking up precious unplanned work time, maintenance can be addressed while machines are already off and your plant is closed, preventing loss of productivity and revenue. Regular repairs mean fewer overall repairs as malfunctioning pieces do not cause wear and tear on other parts of a machine.

Another benefit of reliable equipment is improved safety for workers. Damaged wires can lead to a host of issues and make a workplace dangerous. Clogged equipment may not function properly and could put your employees’ safety in jeopardy.

Preventive maintenance is well worth the time, effort and expense associated with being proactive about caring for your facility and machinery. The payoff for preparedness far exceeds the time and cost of planning. Valuing your equipment means stewarding it well, and in the long term will save time and money.

Seeing Is Believing

You usually have to see it to believe it, right? You want visual evidence to convince you that something is possible and realistic.

This is one reason why offering steel erection animation and project rendering is so helpful. When detailers provide detailed 3D visuals of a planned project, all stakeholders see evidence that the project is a possibility.

Anatomic Iron Steel Detailing first used steel erection animation with the creation of the Denver International Airport canopy. This short video added value to the project, both in project planning and in marketing. As a result, we have further developed this service and our capabilities.

Anatomic Iron now offers a full suite of services in animation, project imaging and sales support. We now provide the following services in this space:

  • 3D Steel Erection Animations: These video clips show the full erection of the steel elements of the building, including crane moves, site staging of the steel, and site planning and logistics.
  • 3D Time Stamp Erection Images: These .jpg slideshows provide a comprehensive review of the erection sequence of the steel structure from start to finish within the actual construction site environment. These slideshows are very effective in project bid interviews, as well as kick-off meetings and initial project planning.
  • Project Renders: For Design Build projects or pre-construction, our animation team can create photo-realistic images of the completed project, including full exterior façade and building finishes.

Anatomic Iron’s Virtual Image and Animation division makes it possible for designers and engineers as well as potential investors to review full virtual reality systems or computer-based exploration models before structures even exist. When we partner with Virtual Image and Animation in our steel erection animation and project rendering services, we cast a vision for possibility in steel construction which fosters creativity. Fully immersing clients in 3D animations and realistic images allows them to truly experience their projects.

Are you ready to both see it and believe it? Contact Anatomic Iron about our full suite of erection animation and project imaging services.

Curved Steel Doesn’t Have to Derail Your Project

The road to a successful project can be full of twists and turns—sometimes literal ones!

Anatomic Iron Steel Detailing is an expert in the complex steel detailing of curved and twisting steel members. The intricacy of bent steel elements gives them a small tolerance, making them a challenge when it is time for field erection.

How does Anatomic Iron address this challenge? We have developed many customized Tekla components and plugins to present curved steel structures correctly on a 2D drawing. For example, one plugin creates a table of x-y-z coordinates on a shop drawing of a steel element, providing the exact deflection of the element along the length of the piece. This level of detail is crucial to achieve the successful bend of a curved or twisted steel element that does not have a constant radius.

Another key for success in incorporating curved steel elements is complete cooperation and thorough communication with all stakeholders. Working closely with fabricators, erectors, and contractors is important on every project, but it is crucial in specialized scenarios.

Many of our clients have approached Anatomic Iron specifically because of our ability to detail these complex structures, entrusting us to create tailor-made solutions for their innovative project ideas.

One of our most prominent curved steel projects was detailing the Denver International Airport Canopies, two very large canopies on the hotel and commuter train station expansion at the Denver, Colorado, airport. Requiring a total of 2,300 tons of steel, one canopy stands over the train platform, while the larger canopy extends under the hotel and cantilevers out on both the north and south sides. This remarkable shape, along with the hotel, is intended to resemble an airplane and evoke a sense of flying. The canopy cantilever on the south is about 70 feet and on the north is an incredible 135 feet with a deflection at the tip of 4–6 inches. Using Tekla In-Model Reviewer, we were able to create this precise and beautiful piece of architecture that adds a layer of meaning and individuality to this project.

Other high-profile complex curved steel projects from Anatomic Iron include the Orange County Museum of Art in California, Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, and the United Airlines Hangar in Seatac, Alaska.

Anatomic Iron Steel Detailing thrives on creating specialized projects that invoke creativity and expertise. Reach out to us today with your unique detailing needs!

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