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Live Labs Blog: Buckinghamshire lights up

As with all local authority programmes across the country, Buckinghamshire’s Live Lab, a SMART connected community project in Aylesbury Garden Town, has been impacted by COVID-19. While work has continued at a slower pace with some partners furloughing staff and the team working from home, some aspects of the project that began before lockdown, are able to carry on.

In our latest blog, John Hartley from Exel Composities UK, brings a partner perspective…

Before lockdown, Exel Composites UK was selected as the delivery partner for Bucks’ Live Lab, with a brief to develop a new concept lamppost with modern materials.

In answering the brief, we proposed fibre reinforced polymer composite columns with suitable connections to allow for a ‘modular’ system. We wanted to test out how a modular system with a more lightweight, transportable and recyclable column could provide more versatility than the traditional, rigid lamppost. 

The main use for the lighting columns is road lighting, so we began with a review of the performance requirements, looking at the relevant ISO standards to understand what was needed for the composite lamppost to be accepted for use on the highway. For any lamppost geeks out there, the main standard is EN40 Parts 1 – 7. Based upon the specific material properties, we then assessed the kind of tube sizes that would be required, using commercial software to validate our ‘in house’ developed calculations.

From there, we created an outline design for 5m, 6m, 8m and 10m columns. The composite lamppost technology we have developed is based upon our proprietary pull winding technology and high performance glass fibre reinforced composite tubes. The tubes are manufactured with a specific fibre placement that gives excellent mechanical performance combined with long-term durability, which is perfect for the needs of Bucks’ Live Lab.

Because streetlighting is required in many different locations, we wanted to design up to 10m columns to cover all potential height categories. For Bucks’ Live Lab, we will be installing 5m columns to test out the benefits of a modular system – if successful we could roll out different sizes in the future.

Following the initial design concepts and prototype build (which was unveiled at the recent exhibition in Aylesbury), a full Finite Element Analysis (FEA) was undertaken for the four lighting column designs to verify compliance with ISO standards.

The FEA is a computer software program which analyses performance under loaded conditions to establish where the maximum stresses and strains are, and evaluate them against acceptable limits. The performance criteria are set from the EN40 standards and then once finalised and the design complete, the analysis is validated through physical testing. I am pleased to say that after rigorous testing at Lloyds British, the lamppost met the EN40 – 7:2000 Standard. 

The next stage is to look at how we optimise the design based on the test results, before embarking on the manufacture of 170 lampposts to deliver to the project for installation. We are able to continue some of this work, albeit at a slower pace, but look forward to testing out the designs to create a more flexible column system with easily replaceable, recyclable components.

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