Engineers invest significant time building data rich 3D models for analysis and design. While the level of detail put into these models varies based on project complexity and objectives, they are nonetheless useful beyond a single engineer’s computer. Unfortunately, though, they are often used only for analysis and then discarded, or visited again only when absolutely needed. What if each engineering analysis model you develop could be used for collaboration, review, and exchange during the entire course of the project and beyond? This is the spirit of Bentley iTwins.
In November 2020, Bentley’s Engineering Simulation software products (STAAD, SACS, AutoPIPE, RAM) started to be integrated with Bentley iTwin Services. This will allow users to do more with the models they build in these applications without any disruption to the way the software is currently used. Further, this value will grow significantly over time. The most visible and immediate change you will notice in the software applications is a new add-in called iTwin Services. This will be presented as an in-product sidebar and common to all Engineering Simulation products that interact with the iTwin. This add-in will ‘house’ all the iTwin-enabled capabilities these applications offer.
Figure 1 - iTwin Services, available as in-product sidebar within any Engineering Simulation products that interacts with iTwin Services.
The in-product sidebar can be launched via the iTwin Services button in the ribbon or file menu (see Table 1). All Engineering Simulation software products expose the launching of the in-product sidebar via iTwin Services button.
Table 1 - iTwin Services button in Engineering Simulation products
STAAD.Pro Physical Modeler
RAM Structural System
There will be multiple categories of functionality eventually offered under iTwins Services. The first is iTwin Design Review. This service allows a model created in an analytical desktop application to be converted into a point of collaboration hosted in the web that can be shared with any team member or stakeholder on a project. Details on this service now follow.
Figure 2 - iTwin Design Review, select the highlighted option (Design Review) within the sidebar to get started
Bentley iTwin Design Review is a collaborative service hosted on the web that allows two or more interested parties to communicate with one another in the context of a 3D model or, more accurately, an iTwin.
The iTwin Services Add-in within the desktop application publishes the analysis model to an iTwin Design Review session, and therefore into an intuitive point of collaboration that facilitates review of design work in progress (see Figure 3).
Figure 3 - A model as presented in-product (STAAD) and corresponding iTwin Design Review session in the browser with coordination discussion.
The web-based interface (accessible with a web browser) of Design Review offers a set of commands for navigating, viewing from different perspectives, isolating key elements, and clipping views.
Several review tools are included with the service:
Figure 4 - Commands in Design Review for measurement and view control
In addition to review tools, iTwin Design Review crucially offers the ability to review and comment with your participants at points of interest in the model. Comment threads can be assigned statuses (Resolved, Open etc.) and Disciplines. Discussions can be directed specifically at a participant using @mentions. Just type @ before their name and select from the menu that appears. They receive a notification with a link, which they can go directly to the point in the conversation where they were mentioned.
Many aspects of iTwin Design Review are particularly relevant to engineering analysis workflows. Project managers or other stakeholders in a project may not be skilled in, or have access to, the analytical software used by engineers to analyze and design a structure. These individuals may instead have a practice of reviewing a set of 2D drawings or a BIM model that is disconnected from the engineering analysis models. In this case, the reviewer may not have a complete understanding of the assumptions used by the designers. iTwin Design Review can therefore help project managers catch incorrect assumptions or errors during the design phase before it becomes a construction problem.
Some of the practical applications of this technology to the traditional engineering review and collaboration process include:
Figure 5 - Select Design Review under iTwin Services
Figure 6 - Application requests access. Click Allow to grant the necessary rights to proceed.
Figure 7 - iTwin Design Review authentication splash screen and subsequent loading page. Click Home to return to iTwin Services page.
Once the access token is granted and completed loading, the main iTwin Design Review page is shown and is divided into 4 sections as shown below.
Figure 8 – iTwin Design Review Main User Interface Overview
Header: Displays currently logged in user as well as the iTwin Design Review logo (clicking the logo would take you back to the initial splash screen).
New Session: Click on New Session to launch New Session form. This is the first step to prepare the conversion of your model to an iTwin Design Review Session (see 2.2.3 Creating a New Session).
Previous Session: Displays a thumbnail of the last iTwin Design Review Session that you have accessed in the web browser. Click Open Last session to view iTwin Design Review Session in your default browser. Note that this is provided for information but may be related to a completely different model or project.
Sessions List: Displays a flat list of your iTwin Design Review sessions. The Session List view can be searched and filtered by tags. Tags are added during iTwin Design Review session creation process. The sessions list would initially be prefiltered to your current file Tag (usually the currently opened file name). This is so that the sessions list would be most relevant to your currently opened file. Remove the session Tag by clicking the “x” next to the filtered tags to view all you design review sessions.
Click to access sessions filter dropdown – this allows you to further filter on currently active file tag or to toggle between filtering on Open vs Closed Sessions. Sessions that you create are by default Open, so that it can be interacted on. Sessions that are no longer relevant can be optionally “Closed” to not clutter your sessions list.
Each iTwin Design Review Session (see Figure 9) is shown as a list item in the Sessions List.
Figure 9 - A iTwin Design Review session list item with legend key
A: Displays the iTwin Design Review Session Name along with the status of the session. Click on the Session Name to open the session in the default browser. Chrome, Firefox or the new Edge browser (based on Chromium) is recommended for the best design review experience.
Indicates that the session is currently being converted online.
Indicates the session is ready to be accessed.
Indicates there was an error in the session creation process.
B: Supplementary information regarding the session.
Indicates the number of comments for this session. A mouse hover over this icon would show the comment subject titles in this session.
Indicates the creation date of this session. Hovering of this icon would reveal a more detailed timestamp.
Shows the assigned Tag(s) to this session. Clicking any of the Tag(s) would filter all sessions to the selected Tag.
C: Displays the user initials of participants of this session. Hovering over each initial would reveal the full name of participants. Clicking the “+” icon allows you to Add or Remove participants (see Figure 10). Auto suggested list of participants (from your organization) would display as you type into the Add Participants field. You can also add external participants to your design review session.
Figure 10 - Edit Session Participants Dialogue
D: Displays when the session was last modified (relative to the current date/time).
E: Thumbnail of the session. When you first create a session, this would be a blank placeholder. The thumbnail of the design review session is automatically retrieved from the view extracted from the first comment entered in the iTwin Design Review session.
F: More Actions. (see Figure 11)
Figure 11 - Session List Item - More Actions.
Launch Session: Will navigate to the iTwin Design Review session with your default browser. This is an alternative method to access to the iTwin Design Review session to directly clicking the underlined session name.
Edit Tags: Present you with the opportunity to edit the tags assign to the session
Export Comments: Exports all comments from the design review session to a temporary XLS file. Your default XLS viewer would then automatically open this downloaded file (usually Microsoft Excel). To keep a local copy for your reference, perform a “Save-As” action within Microsoft Excel.
Close Session: Click Close to Close the Session. A Closed Session can no longer be commented on and won’t appear in the sessions list unless Close Session visibility is toggled on.
Click “Create Session” in New Session block (Figure 8) to launch Create New Session form.
For below steps Refer to Figure 12 for the elements on Create New Session form.
Figure 12 - Create new session form
Step 1: Session Name - The name of the session will be suggested based on the name of the model. However, note that this should be unique (amongst All Open Sessions) and as such if a session has been initiated with the name of the model already, then an alternative name should be provided.
Step 2: Define any tags. (Optional)The name of the model is provided as a suggested tag, but any others can be added to help in getting collections of sessions at a later stage.
Step 3: Session Participants - (Optional) Define additional participants. Clearly the power and benefit of a design review session comes from the collaborative effort of working with colleagues. They can be identified at this time or any time later once the session has been initiated.
Step 4: Session Settings – (Optional) Product specific settings on HOW a session is to be created (e.g include loads, rebars, etc..).
Step 5: Next – Clicking ‘Next’ will then start the process of building the Design Review model from your model and push it into the iTwin Design Review service. The desktop conversion process may take a few minute to process, once the desktop conversion has completed you will be informed of this via an info message (Figure 13). At this stage, the process is purely online, therefore you can continue to work in your product while the conversion takes place online. Your session is “ready” when you see an info message per (Figure 14) or a green tick next to your session list item
Figure 13 - Successful upload message
Figure 14 - Successfully created session message - with hyperlink to the created review session
Once completed, the Session is marked with a tick and by clicking on the session, the iTwin Design Review session would launch in your default web browser where discussions and feedback can be solicited from your Session Participants (i.e Design Team/Project Members). The session is now ready to add one or more comments which can become discussion threads with others in the design team that can be used to assist in progressing the project.
Figure 15 - A Successfully created session with a ready status green check mark next to session name. Click directly on the Session Name to launch Design Review in the default web browser.
Additionally, note that notification that the design review session is ready will be reported in Connection Client and/or Email.
Figure 16 - Connection Client Notification
Figure 17 - Design Review Session is Ready email message as presented in Microsoft Outlook
Your invited participants would similarly be notified through Connection Client and email message (Figure 18).
Figure 18 - Collaboration request email automatically sent by iTwin Design Review to all Session Participants.
Figure 19 - iTwin Design Review session in the web browser
Figure 20 –Comment and markup of proposed solution in an iTwin Design Review session in the web browser.
Figure 21 - Comment reflected within Product itself (info tip when hovered over comment icon)
For a general guide on the iTwin Design Review service, see:- https://communities.bentley.com/products/digital-twin-cloud-services/itwin-services/w/itwin-design-review-wiki