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3D printed models and wind-tunnel technology optimize stadium designs for 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar

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Though still six years away, preparations for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar are well underway, with stadiums being designed, tested, and built. Of course, having Qatar host the worldwide summer event has caused a number of controversies, among which is the issue of temperature. With hot temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) being the norm in the summer, people have raised a number of concerns over how fans and players alike will bear the heat. To deal with this problem, along with changing the tournament’s date, a team of scientists from Qatar University’s College of Engineering have been testing weather conditions on 3D printed models of the stadiums to optimize their design, both for comfort and for cost.

The scientists, who have been working on the project for the last six months, have been 3D printing 1:3000 scale models of the stadiums (there will be six in total) and testing how they react thermally and aerodynamically when put in a specially designed wind tunnel. With the 3D printed structure inside the wind tunnel, which effectively works as a weather test, the scientists have been able to use laser beams to accurately capture how air flows over the architectural design. The data from the laser beams is subsequently processed through an analytics software, and turned into measurements that can help the scientists and architects to alter and adapt the stadium’s ultimate design.

As Dr. Saud Abdul Aziz Abdu Ghani, Professor at the College of Engineering at Qatar University, explains of the process, “We take about a week to print one stadium model. It is a scale model and follows exactly the design of the proposed stadiums for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. We printed the parts of the stadium separately, put them together and then put the 3D printed stadium model into a wind tunnel for aerodynamics testing. The wind tunnel took seven months to design and build and is the first of its kind in the region.”

The innovative system is undeniably impressive, as it gives the scientists precise information, like the temperature for a tier of seats, and allows them to factor in such details as spectator’s sweat, and how many spectators there will be in order to determine the temperature of the stadium for a given set of weather factors. Dr. Saud adds, “For the cooling we want a minimal amount of air to go in, and we want the air inside to stay there. We can change the direction and simulate different wind directions at this facility.”

So far, the team of scientists have used their novel technology to test two stadiums, the Al Bayt Stadium and Al Wakrah Stadium, as well as the Aspire Academy Fan Zone in Doha, which was used for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Currently, the team says they are working on 3D printing the Al Thumama Stadium, and will soon be testing it.

In developing the technology, Qatar University partnered with the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy (SC)’s Technical Delivery Office, who have helped translate the findings from the wind tunnel tests into comprehensive engineering benefits for in progress and future stadiums. Yasir Al Jamal, SC Vice Chairman, explained, “We’ve done a lot of work with Qatar University’s team and made aerodynamic changes to our stadiums as a result. This creates a lot of saving through value engineering.”

That is, by testing a structure’s aerodynamics, engineers will be better equipped to optimize building designs. For instance, as Yasir Al Jamal notes, the technology could be used to help minimize the amount of steel used in building roof structures, which ultimately leads to fewer capital costs, and a smaller environmental impact.

The novel wind tunnel technology, which was for the most part designed and made in Qatar (save for the fan, which was imported from Germany), is not only helping in the design and construction of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Stadiums, however, as other countries have shown interest in the innovative approach. In Belgium, for instance, the people behind Brussels’ future football stadium have used the technology in Qatar to test one of their own models. Of course, heat was not the problem for the Belgian stadium, as the team at QU was meant to test wind and rain on the structure, to keep spectator’s as dry as possible.

Dr. Saud concluded, “I believe this is the future of the stadium design industry. Testing used to be done on clay models, but this technology is now at the forefront of stadium design and is also being used for high-rise buildings in Qatar instead of sending them for aerodynamics testing in Canada or Germany as was previously done. You can print anything from cars to skulls for reconstructive surgery, using different materials including metal, titanium, and aluminium.”

Posted in 3D Printing Application

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