Digitization and automation for bridges: Contec contributes to research
Digitization and automation for bridge management through an organized system is the central theme of the new research project promoted by the University of Padua, with European support and regional approval, in which Contec Ingegneria participates as a partner with its own skills and experiences in road infrastructure design.
Reporting what is described in the documents submitted for approval, the iBrIDS project is a research initiative that plans to create an innovative methodology for the management of existing bridges and viaducts by intervening in a digital and automated context, in the bidirectional integration of the geometric, material, performance and structural information with the conditions of deterioration of the artefacts and active sensors. This integration is part of the perspective of safeguarding citizens and economic and environmental sustainability for the Public Administration.
iBriDS integrates different scientific sectors with the aim of building research centers of which the University of Padua is a leader. This approach is an obligatory step for a complete management of bridges according to the guidelines of Industry 4.0 and Agenda 2030, guaranteeing digital access to maintenance interventions for the construction supply chain linked to it.
The project plans to stimulate the infrastructure sector starting from the coherent systemization in the management of bridges, building an intelligent information system aimed at administrations for the collection, management and processing of the data collected, specifying the Venetian know-how of the companies and contributing thus to the definition of a Smart City capable of optimizing decisions on infrastructure works.
The context requirement in digitalization and automation for bridges
According to territorial data, the Venetian artefacts found amounted to 6100 units, 3814 bridges and viaducts and 2300 minor crossing works. Also, with reference to the considerable quantity, the management and the decision of ordinary and extraordinary maintenance or of static interventions, described as an onerous activity in terms of time and resources. If considered individually, these activities require an implicit degree of complexity, due to:
- the complexity of access to artefacts for surveillance and inspection;
- the variability of construction and technological solutions;
- the difficult knowledge of the artefacts in terms of design in reference to the design period;
- the difficulty of interpreting the monitoring results through the sensors in reference to the structural scheme, with strong repercussions on the professionalism necessary in this phase.
The management and monitoring model must therefore be able to simplify the procedure by means of digital tools, with a view to saving intervention and environmental protection, through:
- accurate digital surveys, as-built drawings and project specifications;
- their organization within BIM models (Building Information Modeling – specific for bridges), enables to support the precise description of the degradations and the planning of the interventions, and to enable seismic, geotechnical and fluid dynamics simulations also with a view to increased flows for climate change;
- the use of advanced sensors for structural criticality assessments;
- the loading of information into a Bridge Management System (BrMS) for the prediction of problems and interventions, also through the Machine Learning tools.
The scheme thus set up allows to intervene transversely and in a multidisciplinary way on the two thematic trajectories “Smart and sustainable buildings and cities” and “Well-being of the person and sustainability of living environments” pursuant to RIS3 Sustainable Living.
The objectives of the project
Overall, the objective of the project is defining a process for the intelligent management of bridge and viaduct maintenance activities. To achieve this established goal, it’s necessary to put the best setting in 3 different research categories:
1) the construction technique, for the static and dynamic stability of the structures, possibly subject not only to road / railway load but also to the growing stresses following climate change;
2) the digital survey and digitalization of infrastructures in the BIM environment;
3) the management of information derived from sensors in an IoT perspective regarding the passage of vehicles, any structural failures, changes in the forces underlying the engineering work.
The maintenance of bridges and viaducts is necessarily continuous, in which some minor interventions do not affect the static system of the work, but improve the behavior of the materials (structural), the safety of the road infrastructure (damage to the guard-rail) or its correct use.
Scientific and technological objectives
The scientific objectives lie in the definition of a process (methodologies, tools, type of companies involved, timing, costs) that makes this digitalization and intelligent management possible, offering administrations and managing bodies a clear implementation plan. The latter is aimed at a variety of interested stakeholders, thanks to its publication in conference proceedings, magazine articles and technical seminars.
The technological objectives lie in the collaboration with partner companies, which deal not only with adequate software development but also hardware, for the development of sensors for the analysis of bridges.
The research intends to develop specific data and information management skills: the creation of a digital environment in which information is exchanged and organized results in a lack of existing literature and in the results of a survey of engineering companies, administrations and dealers carried out for the project design.
Finally, it is a matter of defining collaboration protocols between entities that excel in their production (analytical structural models, ordinary maintenance, contract management), but which in complex organizational structures are difficult to collaborate.
iBrids (intelligent Bridge Information Decision System)
RIS3 Sustainable Living
DGR 1463/2019 Innovazione e ricerce per un Veneto più competitivo
Università degli Studi di Padova
Dipartimento ICEA (https://www.dicea.unipd.it/)
Laboratorio di Prove e Laboratorio Informatizzato di Modellazione (LIM)
Contec Ingegneria (www.contecingegneria.it)
G&P Intech (www.gpintech.com)
Ance Veneto (www.veneto.ance.it)
Scientific project disciplines in digitization and automation for bridges
Representation and geometry
Photo credit _ Chuttersnap via Unsplash