Steel Tube Bending for an Algae Growing Tree

A civil engineering student recently inquired about steel tube bending for an algae growing tree.  She first heard of Chicago Metal Rolled Products last fall when its president talked to her Materials of Construction class at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

With students of several majors, she is working on an inter-professional project to design a tree-like structure that would go on a family’s front lawn and house an algae growing system.

Above is a picture of the design they have so far.  They would like to have a tree made up of about 24 each 4in diameter steel tubes that would be rolled into a shape mimicking a tree with a total height of 20 feet.

The student was contacting the company for help with material suggestions, types of curves, feasibility, and cost estimating.

Although this project is not likely to immediately provide profitable orders for his company, Chicago Metal’s estimator offered to help.  Here’s some of his guidance which is similar to conversations steel bending and rolling estimators have with designers every day.

The estimator said, “As far as material suggestions – it is outside so I imagine it will either have to be carbon steel that is protected somehow or stainless steel. Again, that is up to you. Stainless is typically an order of magnitude more expensive. “

“I’m not sure exactly which pieces on the attached image are rounded, so I need you to give me a list of what you would need. In this stage of design, most of the times our customers don’t have final dimensions, which we realize. The more accurate information you can get me though, the more accurate my estimate to you would be. If you are planning on pieces being multiple radii-which from the looks of this they may be, they would best be limited to 2 radii per piece we give you”

“To give a cost estimation, what I would need from you is what we call a take-off. Essentially, I need a list of the individual pieces that you would need bent: the quantity, the size, the orientation, the radius, and the arc length or degree of arc.

“Since I don’t know how much you know about what we do, I think I should point out the fact that what is typically done by a roller/bender is to supply the material to make something like this, but we wouldn’t cut it to size or assemble it. That work would be done by a fabricator. So what you would be getting from us is longer-than-needed pieces that need to be measured, cut, and assembled.”

“We are a job shop/rolling house, which essentially means we can answer questions on things like whether or not a material will curve to a specific radius, how much distortion to expect for certain wall thicknesses, and in general the feasibility of curving a particular piece. We don’t answer questions concerning whether it will work for your specific application. (We leave the designing and engineering up to our customers). I would be glad to help you with your project as best I can.”

The students are meeting again soon to provide better details on their project to the estimator.


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