SOLIDWORKS Simulation: Exploring the Hyatt Regency Walkway Collapse

   By Mark Peterson on July 15, 2019

The Hyatt Regency Walkway collapse was an event that changed engineering forever. This example serves as a lesson to many about double-checking your work. We should always use every tool available to us to make sure our designs are safe and that they perform how we expect. I wonder what the engineers on this project could’ve done if they had a simple tool to use that could have raised a red flag after just a few minutes of set up.

Engineers for the project originally proposed a stacked pedestrian bridge design where both bridges were supported by the same threaded rods. After recognizing that this may cause issues during the installation, a modified design was proposed.

Designs for Hyatt Regency Walkway

However, something that seemed like a subtle change resulted in a catastrophic event.  Using the tools I have at my disposal today, I quickly modeled a simple example in SOLIDWORKS in two configurations.

Bridge for Hyatt Regency Walkway

Let’s set up a quick static analysis to see what’s going on with the bridge in the original design. I’ll start by applying fixtures to the top of the support rods. I’ll continue by applying forces to the top face of the beams to simulate the load. Many details of the design can be ignored at this stage because we simply want to compare the designs to each other. In fact, the loads I am using here are completely arbitrary. I just need to make sure that I’m using the same setup for both configurations. In a matter of seconds, we get quick results from SOLIDWORKS Simulation.

Max SOLIDWORKS Configuration for Bridge

The next step is to set up a second configuration with the modified design. I can simply go through the same setup steps from the first analysis but if possible, I’d like to avoid making all those clicks if I can. Fortunately, with the 2018 SOLIDWORKS updates, I can simply duplicate the study with my second configuration. All fixtures and loads carry over making this a simple one-click analysis. Notice here, how the result of the maximum force on the modified design is roughly twice the load of the original.

Stress in Bridge for Hyatt Regency Walkway Collapse

These results would raise a flag with the engineers on this project. They may continue their analysis by proposing that they sharp edges of the nuts maybe causing local stress concentrations. We can quickly change those in SOLIDWORKS to a rounded design and run the simulation again. This shows that it may have been some localized stresses due to the geometry of the parts but the results in stress are still very high compared to the unmodified design. 

Watch the full video! 

SOLIDWORKS Simulation allows us to integrate several designs into the one that performs as we intend. Better yet, we can do this in a very short amount of time with minimal effort gradually iterating the model’s complexity to provide more and more accurate results. Best of all, SOLIDWORKS requires very little training, allowing you to see the benefits of SOLIDWORKS Simulation without having to spend weeks learning how to use it. In fact, you can get started right now creating your own static analysis on part files by using SOLIDWORKS Simulation Express which is included in every seat of SOLIDWORKS. These benefits make it clear that SOLIDWORKS Simulation is a tool for every engineer and every design. 

Want to learn more about the capabilities of SOLIDWORKS Simulation? Contact us today! 

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Mark Peterson

Mark Peterson is an Applications Engineer with TriMech

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