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Cardiff engineers support construction firm’s plans to replace scaffolding

2 April 2015

Electrical pylon

As part of a new Knowledge Transfer Partnership, Voltcom Group, which is based in Llantrisant and supplies the power industry with overhead lines design, construction, and maintenance in addition to a cabling provision, will be working with one of the university’s engineers to develop portable, rapidly deployable structures.

This Knowledge Transfer project, which will be undertaken by Voltcom in association with Cardiff University School of Engineering, aims to develop and enhance Voltcom’s  initial design of specific rapidly deployable structures that can be used for the protection of under power line amenities during the maintenance of old power lines and the construction of new ones.

The new rapidly deployable structures system will replace the cumbersome, time consuming and relatively expensive scaffolding system currently in use. The current system can also cause health and safety problems by exposing operatives to a high traffic risk environment for a prolonged period.

Voltcom hopes that, through this KTP, the partners will develop a system which will enable Voltcom to achieve its goal of establishing an in-house design and product development capability.

The team at Voltcom  are anticipating that, with the help of Cardiff University researchers, they can overcome the problems associated with the unwieldy, time consuming and expensive system in operation currently, and develop a more rapidly assembled, safer and more efficient system that will meet the specifications of the regulators. The system needs to be approved by the regulators before its use and this will involve challenging design calculations verified with full scale testing results.

Cardiff School of Engineering will provide the necessary knowledge of design calculations and testing, in addition to  the knowledge of specialist computer and experimental modelling tools required for the analysis and design of complicated structural engineering systems. As the project progresses, the  research outcomes will be transferred to the design and product development team within Voltcom.

The proposed new system will eliminate the use of costly scaffold structures and offers other savings in-terms of transport and construction times. The new system also offers quicker turn-round between jobs, safer on-site working conditions,  a range of standard pre-verified geometry choices, quicker/cheaper design for each deployment job, and a reduction of construction/connection errors and associated weaknesses.

The rapidly deployable systems will also be marketed as products that can be leased or sold.

Dr Alan Kwan, a researcher at the School of Engineering who will be assisting with the project, said: “We have an established track record in researching and working with rapidly deployable structures, and look forward to contributing to an excellent project which will not only support our partner Voltcom, but will also contribute to the local economy and help to solve a real industrial problem”.

Ben James, Voltcom Group’s Director of Operations, said: “Our team anticipates that, with the help of Cardiff University, we can meet the demands of our clients in respect to safety, innovation and efficiency with a deployable protection system that will meet the specifications of the regulators.”

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