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The Laminated Glass Column

E.J. van Nieuwenhuijzen, F.P. Bos, F.A. Veer

Building Technology group, faculty of Architecture, Delft University of Technology,


1=glass 2=column 3=production problems 4=quality

Abstract While this concept works nicely

A transparent column, consisting of for pure compression, bending loads
two glass tubes laminated with a clear can result in local peak stresses and
resin, has been developed during tensional stresses, thus effecting the
several years of ZAPPI research. Intensive failure mechanism. Therefore bending
testing led to a lamination process for should be avoided by using properly
columns on a scale relevant to building designed hinged connections at the top
structures with close to perfect results. and bottom of the column.
Compression tests showed safe, The laminated tubes are similar to
gradual and controlled failure behaviour the transparent columns produced
compatible with the ZAPPI safety commercially by Schott Rohrglas [4],
philosophy. This prescribes safe failure but the structural concept is completely
behaviour of transparent structural different. Schotts laminated glass tubes
components rather than using gross uses one core tube, a PVB layer as
over dimensioning to achieve safety. intermediary and two half tube shells
Figure 1
The composition of the column and that together form the outer tube. In
the results of compression testing are contrast with the ZAPPI column, only Original design of All Transparent Pavilion
discussed. the inner tube is the load bearing

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Introduction element. The shells essentially protect

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In 1999 the first results of the against impact damage. There is a risk
research into transparent columns was that if the load carrying inner tube
described by Veer and Pastunink [1,2]. fragments the outer tube will simply slit
This work was continued over the apart along the seam with the whole
years and last year the research took structure collapsing.
place within the framework of the All The structural goal of the column
Transparent Pavilion project (fig 1) [3]. is that it can carry large compressive
The safety philosophy of this ZAPPI loads without failure. In the unlikely
pavilion is that safety can be guaranteed occurrence of any damage leading to
by designing safe failure behaviour into failure, there should be enough time
transparent components and not by to if necessary remove the extra load Figure 2
grossly over dimensioning the structure that is causing the failure, to support Intended failure of laminated glass column
as is current practice. Safe failure the damaged column or to flee. Thus
behaviour means that a component it is necessary that the column has a
shows, during a test with gradually significant fraction of it’s total strength
increasing loading, clearly visible left after the first crack can be seen
damage without a risk of total failure and that subsequent failure behaviour
and thus shows endurable deformation is gradual. In other words: once a first
before complete failure (fig 2). Thus crack appears during an increasing load,
ductile rather than brittle failure is the the remaining load carrying capacity
result. should be sufficient to carry all loads.
In the All Transparent Pavilion, the The architectural and aesthetic
columns carry the vertical loads and goal of this research is to produce a
are thus subjected to compressive completely transparent column on a Figure 3
forces. Proper design of the joints scale that is relevant for normal building Cross section of laminated glass column
avoids bending loads. Research shows structures.
that because of buckling, torsion and The production method consists of
commercial availability a tube is the best Concept & production placing one small diameter tube within
shape for this transparent column. a larger diameter tube and sealing
The concept is the earlier introduced
The design of the column has the bottom. The small (0.8 to 2 mm)
idea of laminating two glass tubes with
to meet strict requirements for gap between the two tubes is slowly
a clear resin,[1,2]. The resin functions
transparency, strength and safety. A filled with a liquid resin monomer.
to stop and slow down cracks during
laminate of glass tubes with a clear After polymerisation of the resin, the
failure and to keep fragments of broken
resin should fulfil these demands (fig laminated column is except for cleaning
glass together after failure of the glass
3). Both of the glass tubes can carry the ready to be used in a building.
tubes. The damaged glass tubes can
load, the resin will slow down and arrest Starting with small specimens in
still carry loads until the complete
cracks while keeping the fragments of 1997, the behaviour of the resins during
cross-section at a particular height
broken glass together after failure in curing proved to be a repetitive difficulty
such a way that they can still carry some for several years. Heat production,
compressive forces.


swelling and shrinkage result in Figure 4
occasional cracking of the glass, bubbles Final result laminated column
in the resin, delamination and other
defects compromising the visual quality.
It was possible to produce some visually
perfect specimens but not to do this
consistently. However the visual defects
did not effect the load bearing capacity
or structural safety in a negative way.
The problem of making the column
without visual unevenness is that the
shape of the cavity between the rigid
inner and outer tubes does not allow
for shrinkage of the resin during curing.
The most effective solution that was
found is to carefully control the curing
process. This by very continuously
and gradually filling the cavity with a
low shrinkage highly adhesive resin.
The resin thus cures in a very thin ring
which continuously moves upwards.
The shrinkage that occurs under these
conditions is only in the vertical direction
and can thus be filled up with new
resin. By using the right pumping rate
the top of ring i meets the bottom of
ring i+1 before it is fully cured thus
ensuring a physicochemical continuous
It was found that to carefully control
the curing process a custom made low
shrinkage highly adhesive resin had to
Figure 5
be developed which was developed in
collaboration between the TU Delft and Final result laminated column
industry. Intensive experimenting with
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a range of developed resins and curing

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conditions eventually led to a resin that

allows us to manufacture columns easy
and consistently with close to perfect
mechanical and visual results.

Compression tests
To examine the failure behaviour of
the column concept compression
test on small prototypes and real size
columns have been done. For the
columns the initial failure stress and the
maximum strength was also important.
The dimensions of the specimens
are summarized in table 1. The small
prototypes are made using Schott AR
glass tubes while the columns are of
Schott Duran borosilicate glass tubes.
All the glass is used in the annealed Specimen Outer diameter Inner diameter Wall thickness Cavity width Length (mm)
condition and is not pre-stressed. The of column of column glass tubes (mm)
tubes have been carefully cut where (mm) (mm) (mm)
necessary but the ends have not been Scale models 40 31 1.5 1.5 150
ground and polished. 1.2 m column 110 90 5 and 3 2 1200
1.5 m column 120 95 5 2.5 1500

Compression tests on small Table 1

prototypes dimensions specimens

The scale model compression

tests were carried out in a Zwick strength. These resins however did not than glass (3.3 compared to 70 GPa
Z 100, displacement controlled meet the essential requirement of being for the Young’s modulus), it can easily
electromechanical universal testing 100% optically distortion free. deform and function as a hinged
machine. To prevent shards flying The tests on the prototypes with the connection between the column and
around at or after failure all prototypes final resin took place with two types of the floor/support. Table 2 shows the
were wrapped in several layers of clear joint: average compression strengths of the
PET plastic foil or put in a steel safety • prototypes with PMMA heads/bases various prototypes. The load versus
cage with polycarbonate window. adhesively bonded to the inner tube displacement curves of the prototypes
Before the final resin was developed • prototypes with the glass edges of are given in figure 7 and 8. The dots
compression tests were conducted with the column resting on PMMA sheets show the load where the first crack
prototypes laminated with a range of as is illustrated in figure 6. occurred. In the graphs showing
other resins. These all showed safe As PMMA is a material with significantly the data of the prototypes directly
failure behaviour and had sufficient lower hardness and Young’s modulus supported onto PMMA sheet, the curve


prototype �in failure (MPa) �max (MPa)
Plane PMMA 1 15 154
Plane PMMA 2 30 187
Plane PMMA 3 90 169
Plane PMMA 4 60 227
Glued PMMA 1 3 22
Glued PMMA 2 1 11
Figure 6
Table 2
The two different column base designs
Initial failure and maximum stress of scale models

doesn’t show decreases for any of the Figure 7

cracks that appeared before final failure. Load displacement data for
A fall in strength is only visible after the prototypes with PMMA sheet
maximum load was applied.
The prototypes with adhesively
bonded on PMMA heads/bases show
several drops in the load-displacement
curves. This can be attributed to failure
of the adhesive connection.
Both types of prototype have a large
post initial crack strength and therefore
a safe failure behaviour. The prototypes
directly supported on PMMA sheet have
much higher initial failure strengths
and higher maximum. The reason for
the difference in strengths is that the
adhesive that is used for the prototypes
with glued endings is not properly
divided along the circumference and Figure 8
thus has weak and strong spots causing Load displacement data for
local peak stresses. Glass is sensible prototypes with glued PMMA
to local peak stress and thus failure ends
of the glass tubes starts earlier when
adhesively bonded on heads/feet are

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The conclusion of the scale model

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compression test is that the resin with
100% visual defect free results can
also give a good structural results on a
scale suitable for use in buildings and
the failure behaviour of glass columns
is highly dependent on the way the
column is supported.

Compression test on 1.2m high

The column was supported at the was laid on 3mm silicone rubber with
base by 20 mm thick wood (pine) and underneath a 10mm PMMA sheet. For
at the top by 10 mm thick neoprene safety reasons a wooden board was put
rubber. The compression test was on each side of the 200t compression
carried out on a Lukas 20t-10t hydraulic machine to catch any fragments.
compression machine. Figure 10 shows the load
The first crack appeared in the outer displacement curves of the two tested
tube at a load of 73 kN (29 MPa). After columns. The first column has it’s first
that no more cracks appeared till a load crack at a load of 61kN ( 18 MPa) and
of 140kN (56 MPa) was reached . From its maximal load is 196kN (61.7 MPa).
here it only took a few seconds until The maximal strength is three times as
complete failure at a final load of 146 high as the initial failure strength. The
kN (58 MPa). This column could carry second column has an initial failure load
200% of the initial failure load. The of 40kN (11,8 MPa)and its maximal load
punching of the column top through is 137 kN (40.4 MPa). This is almost
the neoprene rubber onto the steel 3,5 times the load that is needed for
support probably causes the rapidly initial failure. The results show that both
increasing number of cracks. columns have a significant load carrying
At failure glass fragments removed capacity left after the first crack and a
themselves from the column at high gradual failure behaviour.
speed, cutting through the safety foil.
Compression test on 1.5m column
The results of the experiments with
This test was carried out on a force the 1.2m and 1.5m columns are
controlled hydraulic compression summarized in table 3. Because
machine. The displacement is the several characteristics (glass type, edge
shortening of the column, measured in treatment) of the small prototypes and Figure 9 :
the middle of the column. The column the columns are different, it is not easy Experimental setup


to compare their strengths with each
other. The most important thing is that Figure 10
all models showed a significant load load displacement data
carrying capacity after the first crack and 1.5m columns
safe failure behaviour.
The main difference between the
1.2m column and the 1.5m column is
that the first one has a higher initial
failure stress value and more or less the
same maximal stress. This is due to the
influence of the different supporting
material that was used. Because the
column always has some irregularities at
the base and top, a supporting material
with a higher hardness can result at the
same nominal average stress in higher
local stresses on the glass edge. The
start of failure will therefore occur at a
lower average stress.
Neoprene and pine wood were
used for the 1.2m column and those Prototype Fin, failure (kN) Fmax (kN) �in,failure (MPa) �max (MPa)
materials are softer and less rigid than 1.2m column 73 146 28.9 57.8
1.5m column 1 61 196 18.0 57.9
PMMA. In case of the 1.5m column the 1.5m column 2 40 137 11.8 40.6
column punches through the silicone
rubber and then comes into contact Table 3
with the PMMA. If the contact with the Summary of test results columns
PMMA after punching through is only
local then significant local stresses in the
glass will result.
All specimens failed due to • The laminated glass column
compression. Buckling didn’t occur, production process can give
because the buckling strength consistent 100% visual defect free
was significantly higher than the results.
compression strength. The buckling • The laminated glass column has a
strength depends on the bending safe failure behaviour in compression.
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stiffness E´I of the column section • The compression strength of the

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and this is fairly high with this kind of column depends on the detailing of
columns. the base and top of the column.
The biggest obstacle at this moment • The actual compressive strength of
is the problems in the availability of the column cannot be determined
long glass tubes and consistency of due to the effect of detailing of base
manufacture of these tubes. So far inner and top
and outer tubes have been selected • Transparent columns that can
from a large supply to match each function as building elements can be
other. The problem is that the tubes produced.
differ widely in diameter and usually
also show distortions at the end. This is References
not a problem for the intended usage [1] F.A.Veer, J.R. Pastunink
of these tubes but will be a problem in Developing a transparent tubular laminated column
using these tubes as structural elements. Glass-Technology International, vol 11, no 6, p 134,
The interplay between the supports at november 2000
[2] F.A.Veer, J.R. Pastunink
the column head and base and the ends Developing a transparent tubular laminated column
of the column is vital. A small difference Proceedings 5th international glassprocessing days ,
in length between the inner and outer Tampere Finland, 1999
tube can result in a significant decrease [3] All Transparent Pavilion, this conference
[4] F. Doenitz, H. Jung/ Schott-Rohrglas GmbH, S.
in strength due to the local peak stresses Behling,
this length difference will introduce. In J. Achenbach/ University of Stuttgart
addition the distortion at the ends of Laminated glass tubes as structural elements in
some of these tubes where the glass building industry,
Proceedings GPD 2003 conference, Tampere, 2003
is bent inwards due to insufficiently
controlled cooling after extrusion Acknowledgements
will cause local tensile stress under
compression loading. This because the The material assistance of the van
distortion inwards will curve further Noordenne groep in supporting our
inwards under compression loading and research is gratefully acknowledged.
thus locally introduce bending stresses. The vital contribution of Mike Huizer to
These problems with the glass this research is also acknowledged. The
tubes also mean that the general technical assistance of Henk Rijgersberg
compression strength of these tubes and Kees Baardolf is acknowledged and
has not been measured. Only the gratefully appreciated.
compression strength achievable under
these boundary conditions has been