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Engineer Alert: An Unbiased Evaluation of Connection Software

on November 14, 2012

The design of HSS members took a huge step forward with Dr. Jeffrey Packer’s manuals and programs and the inclusion of this information in Chapter K of the AISC Specification. Previously, it was believed that HSS connections were so complex they would increase the cost of the project, and put an end to the use of HSS members.

All major structural software programs allow designers to model and design members as HSS sections. However, when it comes to their connections, there are fewer options, with a variety of capabilities. Take a look at the matrix below:


Many programs can design shear and moment connections as well as connections where the HSS section is used within a braced frame. Fewer can design connections where the HSS sections are part of a truss. When considering an economic design, it may be best to increase the member size to avoid stiffening and / or reinforcing connection, which may offset and exceed the material savings. Integration of the connection design with the member analysis and design software will greatly enhance productivity. Keep this in mind when selecting software.

As is the case with all software used in design, it’s crucial that you study the program capabilities thoroughly, by reading the program’s manual, taking training courses or verifying results by hand calculations.

Bottom line: For HSS members, connection design is a critical component of the overall design. The program you use may very likely depend on the connection design capabilities.

What challenges are you faced with when designing with HSS? Please post your questions.