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  1. The recent development of three-dimensional graphic statics (3DGS) has greatly increased the ease of designing complex and efficient spatial funicular structural forms [1]. The reciprocal diagram based 3DGS approaches not only generate highly efficient funicular structures [2], but also result in planarity constraints due to the polyhedron nature of the reciprocal diagrams [3]. Our previous research has shown the feasibility of leveraging this planarity by using planar glass sheets to materialize the 10m-span, double-layer glass bridge [3]. This paper is framed as a proof of concept for the 10m bridge and explores the form-finding, detail configuration, fabrication constraints, and assemblymore »logic by designing and constructing a small-scale bridge prototype with a span of 2.5m. The prototype is designed in a modular approach, where each polyhedral cell of the form is materialized using a hollow glass unit (HGU) (Figure 1a), which can be prefabricated and preassembled, and therefore, greatly simplifies the assembly of the whole bridge. The compression-only form of the prototype is generated using the PolyFrame beta [4] plug-in for Rhinoceros [5]. The form-finding is carried out with a comprehensive consideration of a variety of parameters, including fabrication constraints, assembly ease, construction cost, and practicality. To start the form-finding process, a group of closed convex force polyhedrons is aggregated, controlling the topology of the form diagram and the orientations of the form elements. By manipulating the face tilting angles of the force diagram, the supported edges at the end of the bridge are all made horizontal, reducing the difficulty of the support design. Then, vertex locations and edge lengths of the form diagram are constrained, determining the final dimensions of both the bridge and the cells. After getting the geometry of the bridge, the detail developments are streamlined. Each of the 13 HGUs consists of two flat deck plates and a series of side plates (Figure 1b). To interlock the adjacent cells and prevent possible sliding, a male-female connection mechanism is introduced to the conjoint side plates of the HGUs (Figure 1b). Additionally, to eliminate the direct contact of the glass parts and prevent the stress concentration, two softer transparent materials are involved for connecting purposes. Within each HGU, silicon-based binding agent is used to hold the glass parts together; between the neighboring HGUs, plastic sheets are placed as interface materials (Figure 1b). Figure 1. a) The 2.5m-span small-scale prototype dome, b) Exploded view showing deck plates, side plates, male-female connection, and interface material For the fabrication of the glass parts, 5-axis Waterjet cutting techniques are applied. While the glass sheets for the deck plates can be purchased from the market, the irregular side plates with male-female connections need to be made from kiln-cast glass. In terms of the Waterjet cutting constraints, there is a max cutting angle of 60 degrees from vertical. With respect to this, all the glass parts are examined during the design process to ensure they all satisfy the cutting angle requirements. Aiming to achieve a fast and precise assembly, several assistant techniques are developed. On the local HGU level, assembly connectors are designed and 3D-printed to help locate the glass parts. On the global prototype level, the assembly sequence of the HGUs are simulated to avoid interference. Besides, a labeling system is also established to organize the fabricated parts and guide the entire assembly process. The design and construction of this small-scale prototype provide important information for the future development of the full-scale bridge regarding the interlocking detail design, the fabrication constraints, and assembly logic. The actual structural performance of the prototype awaits further investigation through-loading experiments.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available October 1, 2022