The use of 3D printing in modular building connections is a novel and promising technique. However, the performance of 3D printed steel modular building connections has not been investigated adequately to date. Therefore, this paper presents a three-dimensional finite element model (FEM), using the multi-purpose software Abaqus, to study the effect of different geometrical and material parameters on the ultimate behaviour of modular building connections (herein named 3DMBC) using a wire and arc additive manufacturing (WAAM) method, as part of the UK’s 3DMBC (3D Modular Building Connections) project. The proposed model considers material and geometrical non-linearities, initial imperfections, and the contact between adjacent surfaces. The finite element results are compared with the currently available experimental results and validated to ensure developed FEM can be used to analyse the behaviour of 3DMBC with some adjustments. Case studies were investigated using the validated model to analyse the ultimate behaviour with different nominal and WAAM-produced materials under various loading arrangements. Based on the results, it is recommended to conservatively use the treated or untreated WAAM material properties obtained in θ = 90◦ print orientation in the finite element modelling of 3DMBCs considering the complex component arrangements and multi-directional loading in the modular connections. It is also noted that the thickness of beams and columns of fully 3D printed connections can be increased to achieve the same level of performance as traditional modular connections. For the 3DMBCs printed using untreated WAAM, the thickness increment was found to be 50% in this study.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Acknowledgments: The authors would like to thank The Leverhulme Trust and Royal Academy of Engineering for their financial support to the project titled: “Flexible and Resilient 3D-Printed Metallic Connections for Modular Buildings” https://3dmbc.com, accessed on 24 November 2021.
Funding: This research was funded by Leverhulme Trust grant number LTSRF1819\15\40.
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.