Innovate WNY - Earthquake Engineering

Daybreak's Nate Benson explains how a local earthquake engineering lab has been aiding national companies since the Cold War in today's Innovate: WNY

NORTH TONAWANDA - Buffalo is an epicenter of earthquake engineering research with its facility at the University at Buffalo. Research conducted at UB has been fundamental in the re-purposing of one Western New York company.

Taylor Devices, based in North Tonawanda, has been specializing in shock absorbers and isolations systems since the 1950’s. The company has made shock absorbing systems for the space program, including Apollo and the Space Shuttle. But primarily, Taylor Devices worked with the military.

“Back in the cold war years, we were used by the US Military to protect bases and weapons systems against Nuclear attacks from the Soviet Union.,” said company President Doug Taylor.

After the Cold War, Taylor Devices were in a position where they needed to shift from a majority of military contracts to civilian and municipality based clientele.

Taylor knew his company’s shock absorbers could be utilized in buildings and bridges in areas prone to earthquakes. All that he needed to do was test his theories. That’s where the UB testing facility came into play. Researchers at the university hadn’t thought about using the Taylor absorbers for earthquake engineering and didn’t think there would be a practical application for at least 5 years.

From that research, Taylor shifted its product line and essentially innovated the earthquake engineering industry.

“The products we sell today are seismic dampers,” said Taylor.

These dampers are installed in bridges, buildings, transformers or anything that needs to stay standing when an earthquake hits. In fact, a bridge with Taylor dampers was recently put through a real-world test with the recent earthquake in Ecuador.

The more earthquake-prone areas get developed and turn into metropolises, the more Taylors devices are being implemented.

“650 bridges and buildings across the world," Taylor said, "and a fair number of them have been subject to earthquakes and no damage so far.”

The Taylor seismic dampers work by dissipating the kinetic energy generated  from an earthquake. The dampers are generally installed in the base of a building or any susceptible area of a bridge or transformer.

The relationship with the earthquake engineering center at UB allowed Taylor to adapt and keep the skylines of the world upright.

 


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