Project summary

The use of 3D printing in modular building connections is a novel and promising technique. However, the performance of 3D printed steel modular building connections has not been investigated adequately to date.

A three-dimensional finite element model (FEM) has been developed, using the multi-purpose software Abaqus, to study the effect of different geometrical and material parameters on the ultimate behaviour of modular building connections (herein named 3DMBC) using a wire and arc additive manufacturing (WAAM) method, as part of the UK’s 3DMBC (3D Modular Building Connections) project.

The proposed model considers material and geometrical nonlinearities, initial imperfections, and the contact between adjacent surfaces.

The finite element results are compared with the currently available experimental results and validated to ensure developed FEM can be used to analyse the behaviour of 3DMBC with some adjustments. Case studies were investigated using the validated model to analyse the ultimate behaviour with different nominal and WAAM-produced materials under various loading arrangements.

Hence, the aim of this study is to build the interlink and propose informed-modelling decisions for WAAM-based 3D printed metallic connections.

The numerical investigations carried out in this study provide insight into the structural response of 3DMBCs, which can be applied in making informed decisions when designing, preparing for 3D printing, and modelling modular building connections as well as other structural systems. The findings of this study support the wider use of WAAM-based connections in modular buildings and aim to provide confidence to engineers.