The software's facility for speeding and simplifying the design of complicated earthworks, topographical profiling, quay-walls and rail and road links - and then integrating them all into the final layout of the future harbour area - has been a major techno-tool for engineers at Protekon, one of many specialist companies involved in the massive Coega project.
For the Port of Ngqura, Protekon's specialization in providing turnkey port, railway and inter-model solutions for major divisions of Transnet and other clients has been called on principally in consultation in the design of quay-walls, earthworks and land-side infrastructure, including 16kms of road and railway lines.
The large scope and limited design time-frames for the port and infrastructure posed a challenge for Protekon's Design Services. The Transnet subsidiary has risen to the challenge, harnessing one of its most useful tools: Civil Designer, a package of design modules developed by Knowledge Base, a Cape Town engineering software development company.
For Coenraad Oosthuysen and July Mushwana, senior engineering technicians at Protekon's Johannesburg offices, Civil Designer's capabilities in rapidly fixing optimum vertical and horizontal alignments and sections, and calculating cut-and-fill requirements for roads and storm water, has been a major money- and time-saver – "truly amazing," they say.
"It enables you to put on one composite sheet the complete engineering picture showing all the information needed - all the vital alignments and sections, cross-sections, lanes and reserves," says Oosthuysen.
Most times, he and Mushwana are using the Roads, Storm-water and Survey & Terrain modules of Civil Designer. Accurate measurement of volumes is one of the most important requirements when progressing from natural ground levels to final design levels. That is where the software again becomes an invaluable aid.
"The natural trend is to equalize cut-and-fill. It's an obvious civil engineering requirement that you avoid an imbalance of fill material. That's the ideal. "Oosthuysen says. "Another valuable asset when using this software is the ease with which levels can be calculated at any point on a complex bridge structure, with super-elevation developing along a horizontal curve combined with a vertical curve."
When Oosthuysen started in this job in 1991, hand-drawing of plans was on its way out, and software like this was on its way in.
"Since then, it has advanced swiftly," he says. "What had taken us days, or even weeks, to produce we now do in a few hours. The completion of Coega advances more swiftly because of it."