Introduction to 3D CAD Model of London Tower Bridge
This 3D model of Tower Bridge was developed using commercially available CAD modelling software (see below for available file formats). The model has been optimized for 3D printing with commercially available printers. It has been designed to be printed as a single piece, and can be easily scaled to the desired size.
The model includes fine details that make it a more authentic representation of the real-world bridge. It was created using complex 3D modelling techniques and parametric controls, which mean that as the dimensions of one feature are changed, other features update automatically.
This model is part of a free library of CAD resources provided by CAD FM through its Community Value Addition Project. You can find out more about the project and download more models from our website, www.cad-fm.com. Please feel free to contact us if you have any special requests or requirements regarding this model.
About the design process
Most CAD projects begin with a detailed data set of dimensions that describe the model’s shape, proportions, and features. Tower Bridge has a detailed aesthetic design, and data about many of its features was not available.
Therefore the model is the result of intensive internet research of pictures of the bridge. The challenge was to recreate the bridge using constant cross checking against images and speculation, to ensure the final model matches the style of the original.
This CAD model used approximately 50 individual commands, such as extrusion, lofting, cutting, filleting, linear and circular patterning, merging, and splitting.
Available file formats
Here are available file formats
3D Printing Considerations
The smallest feature of the model measures 2 mm, which can easily be printed with any commercially available 3D printer. The complete model can be printed with very low infills as the two towers are hollow, to save filament.
The model is a single piece, it can be scaled and sliced to create a larger version. If you want to print at a larger scale then you should divide the model up into small individual pieces and print each piece separately. In this way the multiple pieces of the model are printed separately and then joined together with glue.
The suspension cables are fine, and the cables and suspended road segments may be tricky to print without extra support material. We recommend you use as little support as possible, and clean off after printing. Alternatively, you can print the road and suspension cables separately and then attach them to the model.
About Tower Bridge
Tower Bridge is one of London’s most famous landmarks. It was built in the 1880s in response to the need for faster travel routes in the City of London during the Industrial Revolution. It takes its name from its proximity to the Tower of London.
Today the road bridge is one of five River Thames crossings, alongside London Bridge, Blackfriars Bridge, Southwark Bridge and the Millennium Bridge.
The construction of the bridge took eight years, enlisted five major contractors and 432 workers, and cost a total of £1.184 million (equivalent to around £136 million in 2019). Over 70,000 tons of concrete and more than 110,000 tons of steel were used in the construction. The bridge was built in the Victorian Gothic style, which harmonies with the style of the Tower of London.
Design and operation
Tower Bridge is a hybrid bridge. It is supported by two piers, two towers, and suspension cables. The suspended road sections join the piers to land on either side. The central road section between the two towers is comprised of trusses. The two bascules in this section can be raised to allow ships and ferries to pass through.
The bridge is 800 ft (240 m) long in total. The total bascule section is 200 ft (61 m) long, and each suspension bridge is 270 ft (82 m) long. The road crossing is 28 ft (8.5 m) above the water, and its highest point when the bascules are raised is 139 ft (42 m).
The bridge also features a pedestrian walkway between the two towers, 200 ft (61 m) above the water. The walkway provides a mesmerizing view of the River Thames and is used today for exhibitions.
Each bascule weighs 1000 tons. The bascules are equipped with counterbalances which reduce the power and time required to lift them. It takes five minutes to raise the bascules completely.
Originally the bascule system used a hydraulic lift mechanism, with a steam engine powering a water-based pressured hydraulic ram. The pressure of the hydraulic system was 5.4 MPa, which operated the 20-inch diameter ram of the actuator. In the 1970s the system was replaced with an oil-based electro-mechanical hydraulic system.
Tower Bridge today
Tower Bridge is an important part of London’s transport network, and is used by more than 40,000 people every day. Since its creation in the 1880s it has used a system of controls and signals to monitor road and river traffic.
Today the bridge has a sophisticated network of cameras and piezoelectric sensors installed in its structure. These ensure that vehicles keep within the limits of 20 tons in weight and a maximum speed of 30 mph (48 km/h). The system automatically issues tickets for speeding.
Tower Bridge remains an exemplary monument, a marvel of engineering, and an icon of the industrial revolution in Britain. Its bascules are still operated, although more rarely now due to a fall in river traffic.
The bridge requires major maintenance every fifty years, when its joints are maintained and it is resurfaced, waterproofed, and repainted. Bridge maintenance is carried out by the Bridge House Estates, a charitable organization managed by the City of London Corporation.
Find out more
Visit these online resources to find out more about Tower Bridge and the features of its design:
- The history of Tower Bridge
- A photo library of some of the bridge’s features
- A video of Tower Bridge opening and closing
- How bridges work
- Types of bascule bridge
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