The iconic sails of the Sydney Opera House are covered in over a million white ceramic tiles. Every five years, expert engineers must inspect each individual tile by tapping it with a hammer and checking for differences in sound and appearance. But that job could get a whole lot easier.
The Getty Foundation is funding research for the creation of robots that could automatically check the opera house’s tiles. They’ve already taken a step in the right direction, attaching data-capturing sensors to the hammers used by human inspectors. Getty, the opera house, the University of Sydney, and engineering firm Arup hope to automate the tap-test within the next five years.
The task of finding faulty tiles is getting so much attention because the opera house is built mainly of steel-reinforced concrete. If water leaks beneath the tile, it can lead to cracks allowing water to corrode the structure’s steel and eventually lead to catastrophic failure.
“The concrete elements are in generally very good condition and we want to keep it that way,” said Louise Herron, the chief executive of the opera house.
The Sydney Opera House, designed by Jørn Utzon was deemed an Unesco World Heritage Site in 2007. The venue is currently undergoing a $200 million renovation to improve its acoustics and accessibility by its 50th anniversary in 2023.
Via: The Art Newspaper