Demonstration of New System to Protect Computers And Equipment During An Earthquake Slated At UB

Release Date: October 1, 1993 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Just because a building is designed to resist earthquake forces doesn't mean that the computers and medical equipment inside of it will come through an earthquake unscathed.

To better protect such equipment, earthquake engineers at the National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research at the University at Buffalo are developing a system of bearings and dampers that will isolate mechanical and electronic equipment from vibrations, even during strong quakes.

Manufactured by Taylor Devices, Inc. of North Tonawanda, the dampers were adapted from those the company originally designed to isolate MX missiles from the shock produced by nuclear explosions.

The sliding or friction pendulum bearings were designed to the UB engineers' specifications by Earthquake Protection Systems of San Francisco.

On Tuesday, Oct. 5 at 11:30 a.m., representatives of the news media are invited to UB's North Campus to view a test of this new system. A computer cabinet on the shake-table in Ketter Hall will be subjected to earthquake simulations. The tests will show how the cabinet moves when there is no protection and when the bearings and dampers are used.

According to Michalakis Constantinou, Ph.D., professor of civil engineering at UB, even if a building is isolated from ground motions by base isolators, the equipment may still be vulnerable to toppling over. This is particularly true if the equipment is on upper floors, which typically experience a greater degree of shaking.

One common method of protecting equipment is to use bungee cords to tie it to the floor or to hooks beneath the raised tile floor on which such equipment sits.

"This prevents the equipment from overturning," he said. "But the equipment is still subjected to significant shaking, which can damage sensitive internal components. In our tests, a computer cabinet that was secured with bungee cords jumped as much as 10 inches or more during an earthquake simulation."

The UB engineers then tested the same cabinet on a raised tile floor equipped with sliding bearings and dampers.

"By themselves, the bearings provide a degree of protection while restricting displacement of the floor by converting most of the earthquake energy to frictional heat," Constantinou explained. "But at some point, with a strong earthquake, the equipment will begin to rock even with bearings."

By using Taylor Devices' fluid dampers, which use high-speed internal fluid flow to dissipate energy, the UB engineers have developed a system that minimizes motion in the floor and therefore in the equipment.

Since Taylor's shock absorbers for missiles were made to withstand nuclear explosions, they also exhibit superior strength to some of those developed specifically for seismic applications.

"We've put these devices on rockets and blasted them into space and when they come back, we re-test them and they still work," said Douglas Taylor, president of Taylor Devices.

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