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What Is Bridge Design Software?

Bridge design software helps ensure a bridge is built without flaws.
Article Details
  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 August 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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Bridge design software is a software product which is used in the design of bridges. Prior to the development of such software, the engineers who designed and built bridges needed to do everything by hand, from the line drawings to create renderings to the calculations to confirm that the bridge was safe. Bridge design software eliminates errors which can occur when work is done by hand, and streamlines the process of bridge design so that engineers can focus on making innovative, strong, interesting, and sometimes beautiful designs.

Designing a bridge is complicated, and includes a number of parameters. A site must be selected and examined to learn more about its properties and to look for specific issues which may require engineering fixes, such as unstable ground which would create the need to anchor the bridge to bedrock for safety. The needs of the space must also be considered, ranging from clearance for passing ship traffic to the number of lanes needed in the bridge. Designers may also think about the need for expansion in the future. Rather than building a narrow two lane double decker bridge, for example, it may make more sense to build a wide bridge which can easily be expanded to three lanes on each deck in case traffic needs change.

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Structural integrity is, of course, a critical concern in bridge design. A number of calculations can be conducted to determine the weight of the bridge and to find the points at which support is needed. One advantage of bridge design software is that it can be used to create simulations which test the boundaries of the bridge to see how extreme a design can get before it becomes dangerous. The software can also identify weak points and other issues which could compromise the bridge.

The software conducts needed engineering calculations to determine the limitations of a design, and can make recommendations to improve a design for safety. It can also conduct calculations to determine how long construction will take, what will be required in the way of materials, and so forth, allowing for detailed and highly precise planning through the bridge design software before ground is even broken to start construction.

Bridge design software can also be used in the production of detailed three dimensional models, and some programs have the ability to send three dimensional models to a 3-D printer which can bring them to life on a small scale. These models can be used to promote and demonstrate the design, showing people how the bridge will look when it is finished.

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