Engineering Design Consultants
Notes from Bridge 2018 Conference




Consuelo Bottamedi and Michael Thorogood have just returned from this year’s Bridges Conference organised by Bridge Design and Engineering. Here they talk about what they learnt from the event.

The opening session covered the use of advancing technology to improve the process of design, construction operation and maintenance. It highlighted that the construction industry is still effectively starting from scratch with each new project and yet there are ways to harness modular systems, digital design tools and virtual reality to be able to bring significant improvements to the entire bridge lifecycle. It was interesting to see how the use of augmented reality and full integration of the 3D model can be used on site to monitor progress. The augmented reality goggles highlight through colour coding what is on schedule or built, what is part way through construction and what, according to programme, should already be in place and hence is behind programme. At Eadon we already use 3D software and pre-designed blocks and elements to speed up the design process, so it is good to see that the wider construction industry is potentially starting to adopt the same strategy.

UAV bridge inspection

Another interesting talk covered the advances in monitoring of defects in bridges and general inspection methodologies that use unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). The UAV are programmed to travel the same flight route at each inspection so that an understanding of a bridge’s condition can be built up over time. This allows a comparison to be make with exactly the same data from previous inspections. The speaker also introduced the idea of ‘digital twins’ with the real life structure, where a digital or virtual twin mirrors the real life version by overlaying the latest inspection findings into a digital model. Despite the enhanced new technologies, it was highlighted that there is still a need for an experienced engineer to interpret the findings and have a ‘feel’ for the condition of the bridge.


The topic of Fibre Reinforced Plastic (FRP) in bridge design cropped up in several talks (as it has done now for many years). It was highlighted that there is a lack of Eurocode guidance covering the design of GRP bridges. However, through the Q&A sessions it appears that the relevant bodies are starting to prepare guidance information to allow designers to utilise GRP in bridge design in a codified way.

A topic closely aligned to Eadon’s ethos was the idea of collaboration in solving complex issues. The case study of the Skytrain cable-stayed bridge for Sydney Metro was used to highlight some significant technical challenges that were only solved through the combined efforts of the team. The approach used was the concept that any ideas developed as a team belonged to the team as whole and no one person or company owned an idea or solution. This meant that ideas could be tested as a group and team members are able to work to the common goal resulting in success for the team as a whole.

3D printed concrete bridge

3D printed concrete bridge

The highlight of the event was the session on the 3D printed concrete bridge. Initially this sounded reasonably straightforward, however, as soon as you start to think through what actually has to be considered it soon becomes clear that there are hundreds, if not thousands of new bits of information that have to be considered. Issues such as cure rate, shape of the nozzle, angle of the nozzle, speed of delivery, concrete mix etc. It is clear that to get to the point of a very basic concrete deck a lot of development and testing had to take place. However, it appears that some early steps have been made to bring 3D printing to the scale that might some time soon enable a bridge to be manufactured by a robot and created using intricate shapes without the need for complex formwork.

As ever there were plenty of interesting exhibitors. We even got the chance to get our hands on some of the tools. We were allowed to tighten two M20 bolts to the point where they deformed a 10mm thick plate around a stack of packers all using some lightweight, hand held equipment that enabled the bolts to be tightened in a controlled way to the required preload and without inducing torsion into the bolt itself.

 Specialist bolt tightening machine

For more information regarding our work in the bridge industry, or to discuss your project, please telephone 0114 399 0400 or email us.




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