Arup reveals steel structural components made by 3D printer
Engineers at Arup have taken 3D printing a step further with the creation of steel, structural elements for use in complex projects for the first time
Arup’s use of an additive manufacturing process has allowed the firm to produce concise tensile steelwork while reducing waste.
The structural engineer has a history of working on complex structural engineering projects including the structural design of the Sydney Opera House, the Centre Pompidou in Paris as well as the Beijing Olympic stadium and the Kurilpa Bridge in Australia.
The company has now created a redesign of a steel node for a light weight structure. According to Arup, the complex geometry of these kind of nodes ‘is an ideal showcase of the possibilities of this new technique’.
A tensile structure is something which is in perfect equilibrium and carries no compression or bending. They are usually regular in shape however using the 3D printing method Arup was able to apply irregular shapes to the design with the same results.
Salomé Galjaard, senior designer for the project said: ‘We saw that 3D printing was being used in the aviation industry as a way of saving on weight for critical and non-critical elements of aircraft. Structural elements for buildings also have to be 100 per cent reliable, and if they use it in aviation we thought why can’t we use it in buildings?’
Arup launched an internally-funded 18-month research project to look at new innovative solutions. The company collaborated with technology firm WithinLab, CRDM/3D Systems and EOS to refine the techology used in the new process.
‘All the previous assumptions were let go and we started from scratch, asking what the node needed to do and how to make it work. Then we came up with a design which took all the additive techniques and looked at how to produce this in a smart way.’
Arup is continuing the research programme to further develop the new process and see whether it can be used for further applications within the construction industry.
‘Going through the process we realised we actually limited ourselves and realised that our minds were focused on traditional production techniques. We don’t think we have got the most out of the production techniques yet,’ Galjaard adds.
‘We have only just started thinking about the design freedom of this technique. We are now starting again from scratch and implementing the things we learnt from the first project and what we didn’t use before. We expect to produce a node which we believe will be even slimmer and lighter than what we have produced so far.’
The new 3D manufacturing techniques are currently more expensive to produce, however Arup expects to see the costs come down as the technology used in the process matures.