An innovation in manufacturing is helping to cut down bridge design timeframes from a month to less than an hour.
HS2 has partnered with international engineering company Altair to develop an automated civil engineering design process for its viaduct projects.
The company’s software, OptiStruct®, designed originally for automotive and aerospace structures, will reduce carbon in the bridge structures by up to 10%.
HS2 plans to mandate Altair’s technology for bridge designs for phases 2a and 2b of its programme.
Inside the technology
Typically, it would take around four weeks to finalise a design and quantify the materials for a viaduct.
Due to delivery schedules, engineers rarely have the time or resources to go back and make changes to these designs.
OptiStruct® uses intelligent design technology to minimise the use of raw materials and allows engineers to have more space to change a design.
The software uses factors like speed, frequency, and train braking load to create multiple design types for a given viaduct.
Additionally, the technology will visualise these plans using building materials like concrete and steel.
The construction industry has increased its use of modelling technology with the introduction of programmes like Building Information Modelling (BIM).
BIM technology focuses on developing digital representations for a construction project, typically hosted on an open cloud platform where all design team members can collaborate.
It differs from OptiStruct® as the latter focuses more on specific design structures, like bridges, and how they can use fewer materials.
Firms like Multiplex and Willmott Dixon have used BIM to develop buildings in the UK, specifically London, like the 278m 22 Bishopsgate office building and the government’s Department of Health building on Victoria Street.
Regarding HS2’s use of OptiStruct®, Tomas Garcia, HS2 head of civil engineering structures, said: “Our innovation project with Altair is a game-changer. It gives engineers a tool to explore alternative designs that were not previously feasible due to time constraints. By cutting development time, running automatically dozens of combinations of the design variables, the technology allows to identify solutions that minimise embedded carbon.”
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