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Computer dependent

Coverage of the Clyde Arc bridge tie bar failure last week immediately set the engineer in me working.

The bridge was empty of traffic at the time – that’s interesting; it was late evening – below freezing maybe; it was an innovative design – so the analysis will likely have been software based.

My principal thought concerned the analysis. As software packages become more sophisticated, complex fabrication possibilities multiply with the widespread use of CNC interfaces.

It follows that developers and architects now realise structural forms that would be fantasy a generation ago. Such structures, and I'm thinking now of bridges and sports stadia, can push the engineer into unexplored territory, where the computer output supplies, rather than confirms details of structural behaviour.

The ongoing investigation will no doubt establish the causes, but I will certainly be taking time to ask myself, "have I covered everything?"

PETER FENSOME (M), peter.fensome@sky.com

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