Project

3D Modular Building Connections - 3DMBC

Goal: The vision is to support manufacturing-driven innovations such as lean manufacturing and modular design which can transform the construction site and the AEC industry in general. The aim of this project is to focus on the modular connection design limitations and develop prototypes which will embrace flexibility and resilience in design, and will further support disassembly and reuse operations towards the faster transition to the future Autonomous Construction (through robotics).

www.3dmbc.com

This project is funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Leverhulme Trust. Co-funders are the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Industry.

Date: 1 October 2019

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Project log

Dan-Adrian Corfar
added 2 research items
Recently the development of inter-module connections (IMCs) for steel modular building systems (MBSs) has gained traction with many researchers and engineers being in pursuit of universally performant connection systems. While numerous studies reviewed IMCs for hot-rolled steel MBSs, most of them focused on a limited number of connections and were inconsistent in naming conventions and classification methods, posing a challenge for the development of new and meaningful connections. The present study aims to provide a harmonised overview of the existing literature by proposing a unified nomenclature and a systematic classification based on the method of joining. A multi-attribute ranking system was developed and employed to identify "must-have" features for the development of future designs and key areas of improvement for existing configurations, serving as a useful decision-making tool for both researchers and practitioners concerned with this topic.
Konstantinos Daniel Tsavdaridis
added a research item
In the recent history the development of inter-module connection (IMC) systems for steel modular building systems (MBSs) has gained traction with many researchers and engineers being in pursuit of universally performant connection systems. Even though many of the newly proposed connections are presented as potential disruptors for the market, it rarely is the case as it is a difficult, if not impossible task, to deliver a “fit-for-all” design given the complex and multi-dimensional character of this topic. While recently, there have been numerous review studies concerned with IMCs for hot-rolled steel MBSs, most of them focused only on a limited number of existing connections, while also failing to preserve a consistency in nomenclature and classification methods. Considering the large and growing volume of published studies which investigate IMCs for hot-rolled steel MBSs, there is a pressing need to classify all systems under a unified naming convention based on a systematic classification and thus harmonise the literature and promote a well-structured development of future designs. The present study gathered sixty IMCs from the literature and proposed a nomenclature using a rigorous and consistent classification based on the method of joining. Complementary tables with all relevant studies published on each connection system are constructed, providing a comprehensive review of the existing literature at the time and helping to guide the development of future studies in an effort to promote a unified approach. In order to identify “must-have” features and key areas of improvement for future IMC designs based on the advantages and limitations of existing connections, a multi-attribute ranking system is developed and employed. The adoption of the proposed ranking system has the potential to facilitate the improvement of future designs, as well as to enhance existing connections in low-scoring areas, serving as a useful decision-making tool for both researchers and practitioners concerned with this topic.
Konstantinos Daniel Tsavdaridis
added an update
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Konstantinos Daniel Tsavdaridis
added a research item
The use of 3D printing in modular building connections is a novel and promising technique. However, the performance of 3D printed steel modular building connections has not been investigated adequately to date. Therefore, this paper presents a three-dimensional finite element model (FEM), using the multi-purpose software Abaqus, to study the effect of different geometrical and material parameters on the ultimate behaviour of modular building connections (herein named 3DMBC) using a wire and arc additive manufacturing (WAAM) method, as part of the UK’s 3DMBC (3D Modular Building Connections) project. The proposed model considers material and geometrical non- linearities, initial imperfections, and the contact between adjacent surfaces. The finite element results are compared with the currently available experimental results and validated to ensure developed FEM can be used to analyse the behaviour of 3DMBC with some adjustments. Case studies were investigated using the validated model to analyse the ultimate behaviour with different nominal and WAAM-produced materials under various loading arrangements. Based on the results, it is recommended to conservatively use the treated or untreated WAAM material properties obtained in θ = 90◦ print orientation in the finite element modelling of 3DMBCs considering the complex component arrangements and multi-directional loading in the modular connections. It is also noted that the thickness of beams and columns of fully 3D printed connections can be increased to achieve the same level of performance as traditional modular connections. For the 3DMBCs printed using untreated WAAM, the thickness increment was found to be 50% in this study.
Konstantinos Daniel Tsavdaridis
added a research item
A new inter-module connection was developed, adopting structural topology optimisation (STO) and the inter-locking method of joining. The structural performance of the connection was assessed through a series of monotonic and cyclic FE analyses. Results revealed that the structural behaviour of the new connection was comparable to that of other inter-module joints in the literature, while managing to tackle their limitations by introducing both an easy-to-install and easy-to-disassemble configuration with promising opportunities for reuse, demonstrating that inter-locking joints can be worthy competitors for traditional means of attachment in the future of modular construction.
Zixiao Wang
added a research item
Recently, modular building construction and prefabrication have gained massive momentum as they continue to help many cities around the globe to tackle the ongoing housing crisis and pressing demands for healthcare facilities. As a relatively new structural solution, there is a need to study modular buildings’ optimal design. In this regard, previous studies focused only on employing optimisation techniques at the member level to enhance the structural capacity of steel beams in modular building systems (MBS). This paper explores the applicability and efficacy of an optimality criteria (OC)-based minimum-weight design method in reducing the structural self-weight of MBS while maintaining their generalised lateral stiffness measured by natural frequency. This is achieved by pursuing an innovative optimisation investigation involving a three-storey, standalone MBS with hinged inter-module joints, together with a comparative moment-resisting frame (MRF) benchmark structure with two different beam-column connection rigidities. Continuous-valued sizing optimisation of two structural systems under a single frequency constraint is achieved using a novel, numerically stable, iterative OC algorithm. The latter is devised from a frequency-related OC, formulated rigorously through the method of Lagrangian multipliers. The discrete minimum-weight design is facilitated by a novel mapping strategy designed to round the continuous optimal solution to the most economical standard steel sections. Pertinent numerical results suggest that the proposed method can achieve significant steel savings for MBS without compromising their overall lateral stiffness. Further, it is shown that the comparative MRF with semi-rigid connections can meet the same target frequencies with slightly smaller steel tonnages. It is envisioned that this study will pave the way towards achieving resilient and cost-effective modular units and tall MBS that further support the industry in meeting its goals of efficiency and sustainability.
Li Zhengyao
added a research item
Volumetric timber construction (VTC) is an emerging technology that combines the environmental sustainability of timber and the high efficiency of modular construction, while its application is currently limited by the insufficient investigations on connections. To promote the development of VTC, a novel connection system implementing interlocking technique is proposed in this study. Module units with this connection system can be installed by stacking or sliding without the need of onsite screw-fixing. This connection system also has good strength and ductility with the introduction of specially designed steel elements to process in-service deformation.
Dan-Adrian Corfar
added a research item
In the pursuit of a more sustainable construction industry, steel Modular Building Systems (MBS) have been increas-ingly adopted for their demountable and reusable nature, yet this trend has also uncovered the challenges of exist-ing inter-module connection systems regarding demountability and damage control. To mitigate these limita-tions, a new hybrid steel-rubber bearing (SRB) inter-module connection with replaceable steel fuses was devel-oped and its structural behaviour was investigated through nonlinear FEA. Results showed that the integration of SRB and steel fuses at the modules interfaces delivered promising mechanical properties and damage control ca-pabilities under the effect of monotonic and cyclic lateral loads.
Konstantinos Daniel Tsavdaridis
added a research item
This paper is presenting various types of innovative material technology that can be achieved by 3D printing and their potential to advance the connection design in modular building systems (MBSs). Connections can embrace flexibility, adaptability and resilience in the design of modular systems enabling dismantling, repair and reuse-towards faster transition to autonomous construction (e.g., with robotics). Rapid developments in additive manufacturing methods play a key role in the design such innovative mechanical systems. Connections in modular buildings are the most critical parts of the system performance and integrity, but are currently receiving less attention compared with other structural elements (e.g., joists and studs). Optimised 3D printed connections can substantially improve the design of modular building systems with the ability to connect complex geometries and components that would be time and cost-prohibitive or even impossible to produce with traditional manufacturing methods. Therefore, this study reviews the latest connection designs of MBS units which can be replaced with 3D printed elements. In addition, advancements in additive manufacturing (AM) materials are included in this paper, exploring how AM can improve connection design in terms of both material properties and geometry.
Konstantinos Daniel Tsavdaridis
added 2 project references
Konstantinos Daniel Tsavdaridis
added a project goal
The vision is to support manufacturing-driven innovations such as lean manufacturing and modular design which can transform the construction site and the AEC industry in general. The aim of this project is to focus on the modular connection design limitations and develop prototypes which will embrace flexibility and resilience in design, and will further support disassembly and reuse operations towards the faster transition to the future Autonomous Construction (through robotics).
This project is funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Leverhulme Trust. Co-funders are the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Industry.