The construction industry is evolving at mind-blowing speed. Using the latest available technology and software solutions is essential to reduce the efforts of engineers and remove the burden of repetitive tasks. This is where API comes in.
Table of Contents
1. What is an Application Programming Interface (API)
The first thought that will come into your mind is exactly what is this API? and why a civil engineer like me needs to know about this techno-sounding topic.
An application programming interface (API) is a program that helps connect different applications. What it means to engineers like us is with the help of this API, we can create midas CIM models directly by specifying dimensions in Excel, analyze them in midas Civil, take drawings from midas Drafter, and in the end, compile the Report in Excel, in just a couple of clicks.
Having an API allows engineers to create templates that integrate with their workflow. These features will help reduce civil and structural engineers' time and effort in designing similar structures and utilize pre-designed models built with 3D modeling software (which offers API) with Midas structural analysis software. Significantly, post-processing, such as calling the result tables or taking analyzed result diagrams, will reduce repeating the work process and help make a better decision.
Before rushing to the usual next step, Why do we need API? We have to know the current stage of the construction industry.
The construction industry is highly fragmented, and this leads to inefficiency. Each part of the construction process is handled by different firms using corresponding software solutions which have minimal to zero interoperability with each other.
For example, design firms typically use excel sheets for the load calculations, midas Civil or any other analysis application for the analysis, and a CAD package like midas CAD for drawing generation. The construction firm then uses these drawings to manufacture the segments. Each of the processes is interdependent on the other. A change in one requires everything to be redone or reworked. Thus most of the time is spent on reworking. Advances are already being made with the deployment of BIM.
There are two main problems engineers struggle with the most.
- Repetitive work
- Lack of interoperability between software solutions
The introduction of API in the process can quickly solve these problems.
3. Why do we need API
Now coming to why we need this and why engineers are calling this technology the future.
Let’s start with a simple case scenario. We have a bridge, created all the models, and finally have the drawings and report. But, at the last minute, a change was made in the section. This slight modification requires changing the section for the analytical model. We have to reanalyze the model and create a report out of this. Such a scenario is common in all design firms.
One of the main advantages of implementing an API is the ability to build a repository of templates.
The process of constructing a bridge starts with the Planning stage. At this stage, sometimes the client is unsure of the type of bridge required and the alignment. Using the templates and API, quick bridge modeling can be done without starting from zero. This helps in determining the initial quantity and cost estimation.
In the Designing phase, the design firm takes the DPR submitted and starts designing the section, span length, and other parameters. This is then submitted to an external consultant for proof-checking. A lot of revision is required and done at this stage. Sometimes the site constraints also call for edits in the model. For example, after drilling for one of the piles, a utility line is encountered which cannot be moved. Then the pile needs to be relocated. Thus a new model is required with updated piles. Implementing API reduces the effort required for the revisions drastically. Even the alignment of the bridge can be changed at any stage.
A report is also created in each revision. The usual workflow is to copy and paste data from analysis software into an excel report. Images required are also attached similarly. Engineers in design firms take a lot of time creating 2D deliverables for their projects, which can be huge if the project they are working on is big. However, using API, all can be automated and generated with a single click.
By utilizing APIs, we will be able to increase productivity in a number of ways. For example, we can automate the process of updating your construction information modeling (CIM) models. This allows us to update and improve your model on the fly, so there are no delays or wait times for others to see the changes. Other productivity boosters include real-time scheduling and resource management.
4. Use case examples
Visual learning is the easiest way to learn something new. Below are a few of the use cases of API, but with slight modifications, they can be adapted to any workflow requirements.
We will start with a simple implementation of API. This example creates a simply supported beam from a template in an Excel sheet.
The whole video can be summarized in three steps:
- Defining the span length, loading, material, and section properties. With a single click, model files are generated in midas Civil.
- Analysis can be executed directly by clicking on an Excel button without the need to go to midas Civil.
- Finally, Results can be imported with a click. Results can include text, tabular as well as image data.
For some complex implementations of API, you can see the videos below.
Cross application interaction
API is not just limited to using an excel template. Grasshopper can be connected directly to midas software using a simple python API interface. Engineers familiar with Grasshopper can connect it with midas software and generate models, apply loading and analyze the model. Since the geometry is generated through Grasshopper, it is parametric and highly customizable.
Automatic Model, Drawing, and Report generation
We can use Excel sheets with structure and loading data to create analytical models.
An existing template of the FSM Single Cell Box bridge is shown in the example. The Excel file has all information for generating an analysis model and BIM modeling using midas CIM.
In the upcoming blog content, we will be going into detail about the working of the above two complex examples. Stay tuned for them.
APIs are a powerful tool that will help automate processes and streamline workflows. With that said, implementing an API can be complicated and require some technical knowledge. With the MIDAS API, users can create models directly from design sheets. With the interoperability of midas Civil, midas CIM, and Drafter, updated drawings can be generated with a single click.
The construction industry has progressed from paper documents to digital workflows. However, project workflow is often fractured by tools that could be more compatible and efficient. They require multiple information entries, file transfers, and improvised solutions that result in error, inefficiency, and expense. MIDAS API addresses these challenges and solves them.
We know that many of our users are interested and excited about all the MIDAS API's capabilities. We are also very eager to show all the new features that will be available in the upcoming release of our MIDAS API. In Korea, we successfully finished the Beta Test of our new API with some very promising feedback. Next year, we will launch the same MIDAS API Beta Test campaign to our international market, so please stay tuned for more information on how to participate in the Beta testing.