Ftool has a commercially available advanced edition with additional features.
To access Ftool’s advanced edition, the user must first purchase a license. That can be done from the Ftool’s website after registering. Upon purchase, the user will receive an email with the license’s serial key. The serial can also be seen in the user’s account page on the Ftool website.
Clicking on File > Upgrade..., will open a dialog window where the serial key must be given. An internet connection is required for this operation, since the key will be validated by the Ftool servers.
After validating the new license, Ftool will close. Once reopened, it will initialize itself with the Advanced Edition. On subsequent uses, the program will open in the Advanced Edition so long as the license is valid. Every time it opens, Ftool will try to connect to its servers to validate the license. If the servers cannot be accessed due to a lack of an internet connection or some other reason, the program will keep working in the Advanced Edition for thirty days and/or ten uses of the program. That is, if the program is not used for a long time and then an attempt to use it cannot connect to the servers, the license will still be considered valid for the next ten uses.
When the serial key is validated, a file called Ftool.license is created in the same directory as the Ftool executable (Ftool.exe). This file must always be kept in the same folder as the executable. If the license file isn’t found, the program will revert to the free edition. The license is also bound to the current computer. If you wish to have the Advanced Edition in more than one computer, multiple licenses must be purchased.
The save-files created by the Educational and Advanced Editions are the same and perfectly compatible. However, if the Advanced Edition is used to create a model with multiple load cases and/or load combinations and this model is then opened with the Educational Edition, a warning will appear informing the user that only the first load case will be accessible. The model may be modified, calculated and saved normally; the hidden load cases and combinations will not be lost.
The free edition of Ftool always opens with certain configurations: units in the SI system and values displayed with formats according to the Units and Number Formatting window, displaying dimension lines but not reactions, disabled grid, and so on. The Advanced Edition, however, allows the user to define these initial configurations easily.
To do so, the user must simply configure the program as they wish the program to be initialized and then go to Options > Save current properties as default. A popup will appear to confirm the operation. If confirmed, the properties will be saved in the file Ftool.properties and will already be used to reset the configurations if the user chooses to start a new model.
To return to the default values for all the configurations, simply select Options > Restore factory settings. Once again, a popup will appear to confirm the operation.
The Ftool.properties file is created in the same directory as the Ftool executable (Ftool.exe) as soon as the license is initially validated and must be kept in the same folder as the executable. If the file is not found, the factory default configurations will be adopted and a new Ftool.properties file will be created with these factory defaults.
The Ftool.properties file is quite self-explanatory, so users are invited to explore it to see all the options which may be configured. In summary, these include:
- whether the grid is active, whether the mouse should snap to it, and its spacing;
- whether to start in Keyboard Mode;
- the desired result mode (diagram, influence line, etc);
- the result step and whether it should be normalized;
- whether to add static loads to the load train envelope;
- whether to save the .POS file;
- the background color;
- what to display (dimension lines, reactions, loads, loads withresults, step values, etc);
- the size to display supports, loads and text;
- units and number formats.
The Advanced Edition also includes a new cross-section, called "User-built". This section can be used to describe any polygonal cross-section that isn’t adequately represented by the parameterized sections. The user describes the section as a composition of trapezoids by defining each trapezoid’s height and top and bottom widths. The section is always symmetric around its natural vertical axis. As trapezoids are added, a to-scale sketch of the section is drawn, allowing the user to validate that the correct dimensions were inserted.
Since Ftool only uses the moment of inertia around the horizontal axis, cross-sections which are hollow and/or are not symmetric around the vertical axis can still be accurately modelled with this method by lumping all the widths at a given height into an equivalent section of equal area and moment of inertia (around the horizontal axis). For example:
The data matrix initially displays five rows, but the user may use as many as required. When the last row is filled, an additional row is created below it. To delete a row, merely select it by clicking on the row’s identifier ("Top", for example) and press the Delete key on your keyboard.
This section can be rotated and flipped. The red arrow representing the natural "Top" of the section is also transformed in this manner, allowing the user to clearly identify the section’s current orientation and therefore where new trapezoids will be added to the section. It is worth remembering that for "equivalent sections" such as the one described above, the rotated equivalent section will not accurately represent the true section’s moment of inertia. Equivalent sections should always be defined according to the real section’s actual orientation.
Firstly, Ftool makes use of the following terminology:
A load is an external solicitation applied to a structure. Ftool offers the following types of solicitations: nodal concentrated forces and moments, member-end concentrated moments, uniformly and linearly distributed forces, thermal loads and load-trains. Each instance of a load (for example, a vertical nodal force of -10kN) can be applied to multiple elements of the structure.
With the exception of load trains, loads are always applied within a load case. The same load may be applied in more than one load case. In such an event, however, any modification to the load will apply to all load cases. Therefore, should the user select a load that is already applied in another load case, the following warning will be displayed:
- Load cases
A load case is a collection of loads that always act simultaneously. For example, a building will usually have a few different load cases, such as:
- SW: The building’s self-weight, which may collect a series of distributed loads representing the self-weight of the building’s component parts (beams, slabs, columns, etc) and concentrated loads representing the forces brought by beams perpendicular to the current plane, among others;
- DL: Dead loads due to fittings and finishes;
- LL: Live loads due to occupation;
- Wi: Multiple cases for wind loads under different conditions and faces of the building;
A model always has at least one load case and all loads are applied to the structure within the current load case. For more details, see Load Cases.
- Load combinations
A load combination is a collection of load cases that may act simultaneously. For example, a building may have a few different load combinations, such as:
- The building’s self-weight, dead load and live load (SW + DL + LL), for maximum column compression;
- Multiple combinations for the building’s self-weight, dead load and each of the wind cases (SW + DL + Wi), for maximum column bending;
- Multiple combinations for the building’s self-weight, dead load, live load and each of the wind cases (SW + DL + LL + Wi), for maximum column combined compression and bending.
Structural codes often require safety factors to be applied according to a load case’s classification (dead load, live load, wind load, etc). Ftool allows the user to define a multiplication factor for each of the cases in a combination (for example, 1,35 x (SW + Dl) + 1,5 x LL + 1,4 x Wi). For more details, see Load combinations.
This sub-menu allows the user to see the loads included in each load case. By clicking once on a specific load in the list, all elements that have the load applied are selected. By double-clicking on a load in the list, the relevant load-editing menu is opened. The user may also control which load cases are included when visualizing load case envelope results. This can be done by clicking the Envelope, checkbox, which toggles whether or not the current load case is included, or by clicking the button, which opens a menu where the user can modify whether any load case is included.
Like most other menus, when visualizing results, this menu is mostly disabled. Only the Envelope checkmark and the button remain active, allowing the user to select which load cases are included in the load case envelope results.
This sub-menu allows the user to define load combinations. The user may add a load case by double-clicking on the Load case cell of the matrix’s first unused line, which opens a dropdown menu with all the load cases not already included in the combination. The combination then adds the selected case with a default factor of unity. This factor can be modified at any time. The format of the factor can be modified in the Units and Number Formatting window. Load cases can also be removed from a combination by selecting the desired matrix rows and pressing the Delete key on the keyboard.
As load cases are added or removed and factors are modified, the current combination’s resultant loading throughout the model is displayed on the canvas.
The user may also control which load combinations are included when visualizing combination envelope results. This can be done by clicking the Envelope checkbox, which toggles whether or not the current load combination is included, or by clicking the button, which opens a menu where the user can modify whether any load combination is included.
While the other menus are disabled when visualizing results, this menu remains enabled. This allows the user to create, edit or delete load combinations while displaying results. The results are updated automatically with every modification to the combination.
The dropdowns at the top-right corner of the window can be used to select the current static load (load case or combination) and load train. Depending on the situation, one, none or both of these dropdowns may be disabled.
If in the Diagram result mode but not seeing results, the static load dropdown will only list load cases. The only exception is if in the Load Combinations menu, in which case only load combinations will be listed. If seeing results, the dropdown will contain both cases and combinations.
If in the Influence Line Line result mode (whether or not seeing results), the static load dropdown is disabled and displays "NONE".
If in the Load Case Envelope or Load Combination result modes but not seeing results, the static load dropdown will only list load cases. The only exception is if in the Load Combinations, menu, in which case only load combinations will be listed. If seeing results, the dropdown will be disabled and display "Envelope".
If in the Load Train Envelope result mode but not seeing results and the Add static load results to load-train envelope option is active (see Superposition of static load and load-train results), the static load dropdown will only list load cases. The only exception is if in the Load Combinations menu, in which case only load combinations will be listed. If seeing results, the dropdown will list load cases and combinations. Whether or not seeing results, if the Add static load results to load-train envelope option is disabled, the static load dropdown will also be disabled and display "NONE".
The load train dropdown menu is only active if in the Influence Line or Load Train Envelope result modes or if in the Load Train menu. If active, it includes all the current load trains and a "NONE". If disabled, simply displays "NONE".
In the Advanced Edition, two additional result modes are added: Load case envelope and Load combination envelope. These are selected via a dropdown which also includes the standard Load train envelope mode.
The Load Case Envelope and Load Combination Envelope modes are used to display envelopes of limiting internal force values along a structure under multiple static loads. Envelopes are diagrams of minimum and maximum values of an internal force (axial, shear or bending moment) or deformed configuration for the given static loads (either load cases or combinations).
Only load cases or combinations that have been marked will be included in the envelope (see Load Cases and Load Combinations). If no case/combination is toggled to be included in the envelope, a warning will be displayed and the case/combination envelope menu will open. Should the user try to see load combination envelopes before defining any combinations, the program will display a message informing the user and the load combination menu will open.
For the deformed configuration envelope, the user must select which of the deflection components to print with the envelope: the horizontal, vertical, axial or transversal displacement. The envelope displays only the maximum and minimum values at each point for the selected component and therefore cannot be taken as representing the true deformed configuration.
Point results of static load envelopes may be obtained by just selecting a target position using the left mouse button. The minimum and maximum values at that point are shown in the top message bar.
In these modes the user may apply transformations that do not alter the structure’s topology (see Transformations). To do so, the user must open the transformations window, select the desired objects and then apply the transformations. The results are automatically updated, maintaining their scale.
Vertical component of deformed configuration load case/combination envelope Axial force load case/combination envelope Shear force load case/combination envelope Bending moment load case/combination envelope