Computational Structural Optimization and Digital Fabrication of Timber BeamsPaul Mayencourt, Joaquin S. Giraldo, Eric Wong, and Caitlin Mueller, Proceedings of the International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures (IASS) Symposium, 2017
This paper focuses on optimizing beams made of solid timber sections through a CNC subtractive milling process. An optimization algorithm shapes beams and reduces the material quantities by up to 50% of their initial weight. A series of these beams are then fabricated and load tested, and their strength is compared to standard timber sections.
1.013: Senior Civil and Environmental Engineering DesignClass, 2014
As part of their senior capstone design class in Civil and Environmental Engineering, students completed a 3-week exercise to design, fabricate, and test a scale prototype of a sensor tower, with the goals of minimizing cost and embodied carbon while meeting strength and deflection performance goals. Students designed their towers with the help of hand calculations and digital tools, including structureFIT and commercial structural analysis software. They selected materials from a catalog of options that included steel, aluminum, wood, carbon fiber, FRP, and 3D-printed ABS plastic, with a focus on tradeoffs between cost and structural performance. Fabrication of physical prototypes involved a combination of traditional and digital making techniques, with an emphasis on connections and interfaces between materials. Finally, the structures were load tested to investigate failure modes and reveal differences between calculated and actual performance.
Braced frame design, fabrication, and testingResearch, 2013
This project developed, fabricated, and tested new designs for braced frame lateral systems for tall buildings. The aim of the project was to test out structureFIT on a relatively complex problem, to explore the design space of lateral systems for tall buildings, and to develop a methodology for connecting digital and physical models through testing. Six new braced frame geometries of constant volume were designed using structureFIT, and along with a control design, were then digitally fabricated in polycarbonate using a waterjet cutter. The designs were then load tested to failure by applying a linearly varying force simulating wind load.
The load testing confirmed that the new designs performed similarly to each other and to the control design, while offering significant variation in aesthetic character. Four of the designs outperformed the control in ultimate load, and all six new designs were initially stiffer than the control. The uniformity in results verified what was found in the design stage of this project: that the design space for braced frame structures is shallow, meaning that large changes in design variables has limited impact on structural performance. This means that "optimal" designs can't offer significant savings over conventional designs, but it also means that designers have considerable freedom that can be exploited for architectural reasons.