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 to design 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 we need API, we must 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:
The introduction of API in the process can easily solve these problems.
Now coming to why we need this and why engineers call 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 must 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 needs clarification on which type of bridge is required. Using the prebuilt templates, quick modeling of the bridge can be done. 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. Sometimes the site constraints also need revisions in the model.
By utilizing APIs, we can increase productivity in several ways. For example, we can automate the process of updating your construction information modeling (CIM) model. 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.
You can create a centralized hub for scheduling and resource management by integrating your project management software with your communications software.
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 can create analytical models using Excel sheets with structure and loading data.
An existing template of an FSM Single Cell Box bridge is shown in the example shown. The Excel file has all information for generating an analysis model and BIM modeling using CIM.
Excel and Civil transfer the data using JSON format.
Using a simple Python API interface, Grasshopper can be connected directly to Midas Civil. All the geometry data, as well as loading, can be imported with a single click. Since the model is generated through Grasshopper, it is parametric and highly customizable.
APIs are a powerful tool that will help automate processes and streamline workflows. With that said, implementing an API can be complicated, so it is essential to have a qualified software developer to implement APIs safely and securely. Or by partnering with a company that has extensive experience in API implementation and development. Once the various APIs are up and running, we can expect to see improvements in communication, collaboration, productivity, and more.
The construction industry has made strides in moving from paper documents to digital workflows. However, project workflow is often fractured by tools that could be more compatible and efficient, requiring multiple entries of information, file transfers, and improvised solutions that create error, inefficiency, and expense. Midas API addresses these challenges.