I run the Sydney SOLIDWORKS User Group. I'll send you a direct message with contact detail.
I can send your request to the User Group. I know of a few of our members who work in Simulation and a few in structural steel.
I followed this from the SSP thread because of my interest in FEA. Unfortunately I don't have much to add and am hoping someone will come along. Before I came to a SW company I used Algor for my FEA and since using SW I have been disappointed with the lack of ability to manipulate the model like I was able to do in Algor. I think they have been bought out by someone else since I used them.
I was interested in your co-worker's work with wind loads. At my last job I was asked to figure wind load ratings for portable highway message boards and was never really satisfied with what I found. We were also working with portable light towers and while I think I worked it out it seems that there is a difference between ground level and higher up loads. It was an interesting project.
In brief, the spreadsheet we have takes into consideration wind region (to calculate maximum design velocity), terrain category and shielding factor, sign area, and height, and generates the load (based on area of sign, height above ground, wind speed etc.). I'm not familiar with the actual formulas, as I'm not an engineer.
The spreadsheet allows us to specify different column sizes/ alloys, cross member sizes, pier/ pad sizes, and tells us which part of the design (if any) is failing, and what the maximum deflection of the sign will be etc. It's a good method for a lot of stuff, as we can hook it up to our CRM system and test designs pre-sale to ensure that the columns we are specifying etc. are strong enough.
You are absolutely correct about wind loads and that they increase as you increase in altitude. The wind loads on top of a vertical lift are higher than on the ground. And I can personally verify this. If the ground level wind is 10mph, when you climb to the top of a vertical lift bridge, it can be say 20mph.
You bring up a good point about tying into Code with FEA software. I just spoke with one of our structural engineers. They use a combination of MDX, MIDAS and STAAD. I don't know if any of them tie into their CAD models. Most, if not all of our structural engineers generate 2D drawings in Microstation.
I think they all do their wind load calculations by hand. I guess it makes sense for bridge work because by the time they have accounted for dead load and live load, the wind really doesn't control in most cases. However, our structural engineers design highway sign trusses, and I guess they do that by hand and a combination of STAAD with those loads. But again, they are using 2D CAD.
Sorry I couldn't be more help.
I do run complex structural FEA with Simulation, but there is a large learning curve. All FEA is garbage in->garbage out. And doing complex, real-world structures in Simulation is quite a chore. There are better suited software for complex structures. Simulation is excellent for simpler analysis or single parts.
Did you know that, for instance, Simulation linear will give false and potentially fatal results of buckling on non-Euler columns? Hopefully if you run your signs in Simulation your columns are all Euler or your engineer understands some of the software's pitfalls.
You are probably looking for someone or a firm with some sort of professional stamp, so I'm guessing that the regulations in Australia require a native PE or something for the analysis to be legitimate. that's for sure how it is here in the US.
And for wind loading, no. there are probably programs that are much better suited for structural wind loading than Simulation. I actually can't imagine doing anything too complex in Flow.
The more I learn about FEA, the more I realise how complicated it is. You're right in that we are looking for a third party engineer who could stamp our work (we work with several engineering outfits at the moment, but they are not doing much FEA on our stuff)
I don't think we'll find someone doing the work we need using solidworks. Do you know anything about how to transfer models to FEA software? I haven't been able to find much info on what file formats programs like Space Gass accept. In cases where engineers have done FEA on our structures, they are often modelling off drawings we provide - I'm trying to find a way to make the process a little more seamless.
The other idea we've been considering is developing a standard model, with a FEA study. For individual signs we would adjust the dimensions, wind loads etc. as required, then run the study. We would still need to obtain engineering approval, but we could possible send a report etc.to the engineer and have him review our assumptions, criteria, conditions, etc. before stamping the drawing or report. I think this approach has some promise, as we could invest in ensuring our "master model" and study was accurate, then re-use that work for each sign. Dan Golthing do you think this approach might be feasible?
Chad, I'd have to see your structures. I imagine most signs have most of their wind load coming from the sign itself and little from the support structure. It may be that simple to get a very close approximation to just analyze the wind loading on the sign itself and ignore the support structure. A few studies may show that this is the case.
The bottom line, though, is what is the certifying engineer willing to accept when it comes to your "standard model". They're all different. Some will want to do everything to be 100% sure, and some may even just stamp it without any verification at all, if you can believe that, I've seen it.