Massive structures testing frame finds new home in CEI

Having a massive piece of equipment used to test the strength of a wide variety of structures moved to the new Ed Lumley Centre for Engineering Innovation will give faculty and student researchers a new level of capability they were never able to enjoy in their old facility, according to one engineering professor.

Movers from CMF Group, a local company of riggers hired to move all the heavy equipment from Essex Hall to the new CEI, were busy Wednesday setting up a massive reaction bridge frame in the first floor structures testing area of the $112 million facility, portions of which will open to students in less than a month.

The frame, which consists of a series of about 20 I-beams, support rails and other pieces – some of which weigh as much as 2,700 kilograms – needed to be disassembled in its old Essex Hall home, shipped to the CEI and put back together again. Once complete, it will be used in conjunction with the new facility’s strong floor and the strong wall to test the structural integrity of everything from concrete slabs and columns to steel pipes used by oil and gas companies.

Sreekanta Das, a professor in civil and environmental engineering who works in the structures lab along with about four other faculty members, said the new space will give those researchers a great deal more flexibility.

“We’ll have much more space to work with now, so we’ll be able to do multiple projects,” said Dr. Das. “We’ll have the strong floor, the strong wall and much higher ceilings, so we’ll be able to test taller structures. The strong wall is probably the best in Canada, so we’ve got a huge advantage right there. It’s going to be really nice to work in there.”

The frame is capable of carrying loads of more than 90,000 kilograms. Structures are placed under the frame and then loads applied, often until the piece reaches its failure point. These tests provide researchers with a better understanding of a structure’s integrity, which helps their industrial partners make stronger, higher-performing pieces.

Andy Jenner, an engineering technician who is a member of the team overseeing the move to the new building, said it took a crew of six workers about eight days to disassemble the frame, move it and reassemble it in the new building. He said the rest of the heavy equipment should be moved in the next few days, and that the lighter, “more expensive” equipment such as microscopes and other gear, will start to move after that.

“We’re doing really well,” said Jenner. “Everything is pretty much right on schedule.”