The modern steel detailer

Construction projects require thousands of steel frameworks for its building structure. A company contracted to fabricate the steel will provide these, but before manufacturing the framework, it must first to go through an important phase that involves design and detailing. A steel detailer has the crucial pivotal role in this.

“STEEL DETAILING IS A SPECIALIST AREA OF STRUCTURAL DRAFTING A Steel Detailer interprets architectural and structural engineering drawings to gain a thorough working knowledge the overall design intent of a building or structure. Using this translated information he then produces an altogether different set of clear, unequivocal and accurate drawings for the purpose of steelwork fabrication.” AISD (what is steel detailing)

Defining a Steel Detailer’s Role

The main responsibility of a steel detailer is to produce the drawings fabricators will need in order to assemble and supply the steel members that will be used to create the framework. The job is not as simple as it sounds; there is a requirement for extreme accuracy and meticulousness connected to the preparation of these.

For any given job, a steel detailer will have to come up with three drawings types:

  • Part drawings which are for use by the fabrication shop or CNC steel supplier. This will contain information per individual steel part to be fabricated or processed containing details of dimensions, quantities, specifications of materials, surface preparations and parent assemblies they belong to.

  • Assembly drawing showing parts and there orientation and position in relation to each other. This will contain specific information per individual steel assembly and will serve as a guide for its assembly containing details like dimensions, sizes, specifications of materials, painting or finishing requirements, or surface preparations are listed.

  • The other drawing, meanwhile, will be used for erection of the structures, and will serve as the guide for those who will be installing the steel members out in the field or construction site. This drawing will include dimensions, locations, and details as to where welding, bolting, anchoring and masonry work must be done in the steel members.

The steel detailer gets all the information he needs to produce the drawings from both the architect and the engineer of the projects, and thus, they have to coordinate closely together.

Techniques in Steel Detailing

In the past, drawings were manually drafted. This means that steel detailers have to use drafting tools, machines, templates of shapes, calculator, pen and paper, and other aids in order to complete their tasks. Thus, steel detailers have to be mathematicians, knowledgeable in the disciplines of trigonometry and geometry.

With technological advancements over the past 20 years however, drawings are now computer-generated using CAD programs, with majority of detailers making use of 3D models to enhance their work and produce 2D drawings from.

Steel Detailer Qualifications

At the moment, there are no qualification requirements to work as a steel detailer in Australia. Sometimes, the practitioners are those who work as engineers themselves, but there have been plenty of cases where the detailers haven’t had any academic training in detailing & CAD. The job can be learned while on the field as an apprentice, as a worker becomes proficient and knowledgeable when it comes to steel fabrication.

The Modern Detailer

Due to the change in times the role of the steel detailer within smaller companies is ever evolving and becoming increasingly complex and demanding. Above the general responsibilities a detailer faces we can now be expected to have the knowledge and expertise to take on and offer:-

  • BIM services (Building Information Modelling)

  • Design collaboration models

  • Scheduling and erection sequencing

  • Field services such as tracking items

  • Transportation & Galvanising assistance

  • Cloud based hosting of projects

  • And more.... much more

Due to these increasing demands and the benefits they reap for the projects which utilise the steel detailer’s information rich models, we are seeing a slow trend of detailers being employed alongside the design team in the earlier stages.

This combined with the current cloud technologies available have also seen a slow increase in the demand for live BIM models for project collaboration from day 1 of detailing.

As we have seen in Europe the trending towards clouds and BIM was undertaken many years ago and the results are that the steel detailers are now the pivotal entities within a project and critical to its execution due to the involvement from initial design to practical completion.

I believe we are slowly heading for this here in Australasia, and would only hope that with Japan following the trend of the UK to make BIM services mandatory on all projects we should see Australia eventually follow suit.

With this can only bring the further involvement of the steel detailers into each new project to increase the productivity, reduce waste materials, shorten programmes, reduce design problems, reduce transport costs and provide advanced planning for erection sequencing.

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