> A demountable, fully-embedded mechanical connection for vertical components (patent number: WO 2022/050835 A1)

The novel connection system embedded in a cast glass block
The novel connection system embedded in a cast glass block

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Assembly process
Assembly process

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The novel connection system embedded in a cast glass block
The novel connection system embedded in a cast glass block

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Keywords

Demountable, Connection, Circularity, Reversible Connection, Embedded Connection.

Project duration

2020 - ongoing

Initiated by

G. Dasopoulou, F. Oikonomopoulou, M. Bilow

Research Team

G. Dasopoulou, F. Oikonomopoulou, M. Bilow

About

A novel, virtually invisible yet fully-reversible and fool-proof connection system for vertical components, has been developed within the MSc thesis project: ‘Rolling in Transparency’ (June 2020) by Grammatiki Dasopoulou, Dr. Faidra Oikonomopoulou and Dr. Marcel Bilow. The embedded connection’s ingenious locking mechanism  incorporates a system of internal paths and magnetisable balls and is activated/de-activated with the aid of a magnetic field. The novel connection is protected patent number: WO 2022/050835 A1.

The connection system has been designed to allow for an easy assembly and disassembly method of components that need to be connected in a vertical orientation and is completely hidden – actually there is no external access to the connection, resulting in a fully invisible connection for opaque components, which is well protected against weathering. The connection can lock and unlock without any manual intervention (e.g. bolting, etc.), preventing thus inconsistencies due to human error.

The initial inspiration for the new connection system came from the irreversible nature of the adhesively-bonded glass brick system of the Crystal Houses façade. Could we develop a new connection system for cast glass blocks that allows for a controllable, calculable structural performance, demountability; and equally importantly that remains visually discreet without significantly compromising the overall transparency?  

Aim of Grammatiki’s  thesis was therefore to design a connection system that would allow the cast glass bricks to be connected in an easy, controllable and visually discreet manner while allowing for the eventual disassembly and reuse or recycling of the components. The resulting connection system not only tackled all the above aspects but it can be applicable to a broad range of materials and components that need to be connected in a vertical orientation; for example, in cladding systems and heavy furniture.

In specific, the novel mechanical connection consists of two parts: the upper part and the bottom part, each to be attached to a separate unit (which are to be connected together).  The upper part includes a set of magnetizable balls and is provided with several apertures and respective inclined paths, each designed in such a way to accommodate eventually the respective ball(s). The bottom part, which receives the top part when locking consists of a corresponding number of recesses which in the locking position are aligned with the apertures.

A magnetic field is applied to lock and unlock the system. Once the magnetic field is activated, the set of balls is charged and is concentrated in a vertical alignment in the upper part (tube/shaft). In this position, the system is ‘unlocked’. Once the upper part is inserted and aligned to the bottom part, the magnetic field is deactivated – enabling the locking of the two units: as the balls are released, gravity and the internal design of the tube ‘force’ each ball to roll in the specifically allocated paths – each designed with a different inclination that ensures that all balls will reach their final designated position. At their final position, the metal spheres lay between the aperture of the bottom part and the recess of the upper part – the inner design of the tube does not allow the balls to move accidentally out of their final position (given that the connection is in a vertical orientation). The system is locked.

Upon re-activating the magnetic field, the balls, which lock the two components - and thus, the relevant members- together, are forced to leave their position and travel back upwards on the tube through the designated paths, unlocking the connection. In this way, the connected elements can be easily dismantled e.g. in case of damage, to be replaced or to be re-used elsewhere. 

The reversible, yet visually discreet system – which can be completely invisible when connecting opaque elements is in line with the 2050 Dutch Circular Economy goal and the 2030 EU Greenhouse emissions goal, which promote the utilization of reused and recycled materials in the building industry. It can be a promising reversible connection solution in the built environment for a broad range of materials (including glass, concrete, marble, timber, etc.) and components, such as bricks, cladding panels and even structural members.

Publications 

  • Patent no: WO 2022/050835 A1 : A mechanical construction with two parts joined by magnetisable balls and a methods for assembling and disassembling such a mechanical construction. Inventors: G. Dasopoulou, F. Oikonomopoulou, M. Bilow

  • Rolling in Transparency: Exploring the potential of embedding connections in cast glass components, MSc Thesis G. Dasopoulou (2020)

Contact


f.oikonomopoulou@tudelft.nl