Thursday, May 8, 2014

News: Atkins help bring The Kelpies to life

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Recently opened to the public, The Kelpies, two 300 tonne, 30-metre-high stainless steel-plated horse sculptures in Scotland are ultimate examples of art meeting engineering, and key to the project becoming reality is the Rotherham-based team at Atkins.

Atkins, one of the world's leading design, engineering and project management consultancies, acquired MG Bennett & Associates Ltd in 2008. With a team of around 30 people, MG Bennett was formed in 1984 and is based at Whiston in Rotherham. The company specialises in mechanical and structural engineering and has a strong track record in delivering solutions to the nuclear industry.

The Atkins team has been working on The Kelpies with Scottish artist, Andy Scott, from when the idea was first conceived in 2008. Part of the new 350 hectare Helix Park regeneration project in Falkirk, they are the biggest art installation in the country and the largest equine sculptures in the world. Forming a dramatic entrance to the Forth and Clyde canal which crosses central Scotland, the impressive sculptures are hoped to draw 350,000 visitors to the area each year. Visitors are able to follow guided tours and walk inside the sculptures to examine the complex internal structure.

It is the second time that the Rotherham team has worked on a significant project on the canal with M G Bennett & Associates designing the mechanical and electrical equipment for the impressive Falkirk Wheel Boatlift.
With The Keplies, Atkins began with the initial feasibility study for Scottish Canals and worked closely with the artist to develop an engineering solution without impacting on the his vision for the sculpture.

The Kelpies were based on mythological water horses which inhabit lochs and rivers in Scottish legend and it was originally intended for them to move as part of the lock displacement system on the canal.

Atkins was tasked with working out how the finished pieces could be constructed and how best to achieve the horse skin appearance that Scott envisaged.

Working from Scott's three metre maquettes at 1:10 of the finished installation, the design engineers developed all engineering aspects of the structure for the manufacturing tender and had to devise design and manufacturing processes for the Kelpie "skin" plates: grouping the original panels, creating the flattened profiles for the plates to be profiled and assessing the individual support locations for connection to the underlying structure.

The structure was completed by Yorkshire-based SH Structures with Outokumpu in Sheffield supplying 990 outer skin panels from nearly 200 tonnes of laser cut stainless steel.

John Bullock, principal engineer at Atkins, said: "The engineering of the Kelpies was extremely technical and involved a number of challenges. For example, the idea that visitors would be allowed inside the horse heads meant that we couldn't engineer normal central support columns to counteract the force of wind that the Kelpies would be exposed to on an open site. Because of this we had to place vertical supports at the front and back of the horse heads close to the horse's "skin" so the visual of the internal structure for visitors wasn't compromised."

Felicity Starr, senior engineer on The Kelpies project for Atkins, added: "I think The Kelpies showcase what can be achieved with lots of imagination and teamwork as well as ingenious manufacturing techniques. It has been incredible being part of something so unique and innovative."

The Kelpies website
Atkins website

Images: The Helix

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