Lighting Column Manufacturer’s Fruitful Industry-Academia Collaboration Leads to Spin Out Company
Business: The Aluminium Lighting Company Ltd.
Location: Neath/Port Talbot
Expertise: Advanced Materials Technology
The Aluminium Lighting Company (ALC), based in Cymmer near Port Talbot, manufactures a range of aluminium lighting columns and pioneered the introduction of the benefits of extruded aluminium lighting columns into the UK infrastructure.
Continuing from successful collaborations during the 2010 –2015 funding phase of ASTUTE, ASTUTE 2020’s collaboration with ALC aimed to identify more closely how a lighting column is actually performing in real time against its predicted level of performance.
The aim of the project is the remote detection of whether a column is deteriorating structurally and better prediction of when a column may fail and thus would require replacing.
Lighting columns are designed to British Standard EN 40-3-2&3. Once installed, the performance of the column naturally deteriorates over time due to corrosion, fatigue, foundation destabilisation and collision impacts.
ALC has identified a clear need for a robust method of monitoring column structural health, enabling clients to remotely assess the condition of individual columns.
The performance and structural condition of lighting columns are currently assessed using visual and physical inspection, as well as ultrasonic testing. While effective, these methods are time consuming and can cause service disruptions on roads, train lines, and pedestrianised areas.
ASTUTE 2020 supported ALC with a feasibility study during the initial stages of developing a concept for a column health monitoring system.
It was apparent that a large database of baseline data needed to be established to determine the behaviour of healthy lighting columns, to ensure that realistic threshold values can be set when the complete system is launched.
“The strength of ASTUTE 2020 is that we can access theoretical expertise we haven’t got and harness it to help provide commercial solutions to our industrial problems.”
- Craig Williams
Director, The Aluminium Lighting Company Ltd.
ASTUTE 2020 performed computational data analysis focussed on remotely monitoring lighting columns in real time.
Instrumented field tests on an existing column have provided measured surface stress values throughout the column height, which, together with structural finite element analysis, have been used to predict the stress levels throughout the structure and the fatigue performance of columns.
Establishing meaningful relationships between measured acceleration and the consequent stress in the column can be notoriously difficult. A variety of statistical techniques – e.g. correlations, principal component analysis and neural networks – have been used to identify these links.
The data will be used to identify those columns that have the greatest deterioration without the need for regular inspection. This will enable pre-emptive measures to be taken to replace the structure before any critical failures occur.
A state-of-the-art electronic device has been developed to collect data on the movement of columns under wind-loading. It is envisaged that such a device would become an integral part of ALC’s future products and could be retro-fitted to existing lighting columns.
The proposed remote structural health monitoring system is a novel concept and it is understood that no equivalent system for lighting columns exists. Successful commercialisation of this concept could thus lead to a world-leading product and enable transformational benefits to ALC. A working model running a critical lifetime test is currently installed within a railway station.
With the development of the structural health monitoring system, ALC have incorporated a spin out company called ‘Intelligent Structural Dynamics Limited’ (ISD) and filed a number of patents on structural electronic measuring. As ISD expands, increased business and job opportunities are envisaged.
“ASTUTE 2020 R&D engagement with ALC was challenging, leading to extended fruitful collaboration driving the manufacture of the column health device for future applications.”
- Dr Fawzi Belblidia
Senior Technical Manager, ASTUTE 2020.