RCBI develops 3D printed model to help E&H Manufacturing market bridges

As an astute businessman, David Haney doesn’t put all of his eggs in one basket. He puts some of them in bridges!

And not just any bridges. Haney’s company, E&H Manufacturing, builds pre-engineered, easy-to-install, environmentally friendly bridges unlike any others.

Since 1991, E&H Manufacturing has been a successful producer of equipment for the oil and gas industry. Because of the volatility of this extractive sector and the trend away from fossil fuels, Haney  and fellow E&H owner John Ellison chose to boost their own line of bridges, which they had been selling since 2012.

“Originally, E&H manufactured the bridges for three engineers at West Virginia University who had created two designs,” Haney said. “They were selling the bridges we were building to the timber industry. We saw the potential for them in other industries, such as the oil & gas industry that we already were selling our products to.”

E&H worked out a deal to market the bridges to other industries and added five modern designs to the product mix. The original designs had load capacities of 80,000 pounds, which is heavier than a lot of clients need. Their lightest design has a capacity of 22,000 pounds. Each bridge is 13 feet wide and available in either 30- or 40-foot lengths.

It takes two employees about a week to build one of the largest bridges, then another six to eight weeks to stress it by compressing the treated and kiln-dried yellow pine timbers. Construction takes place at one of the company’s manufacturing plants, a 17,500-square-foot facility in Harmony, Roane County. “We have room to expand there and hope to really open the doors on these bridges to a number of different markets, including government and even foreign markets,” Haney explained.

Advantages
The strength of the bridges comes from the hydraulic pressure applied to the timbers. The E&H bridges are manufactured from pressure-treated lumber encased in steel channel. “It’s actually the friction that’s created between the boards that provides the strength,” Haney said. “That’s why they’re called stress-laminated bridges.” The patented shear-key design that connects the two sections ensures that weight is distributed evenly across the bridge.

Because the bridges are pre-engineered, they are certified to specific weights so customers know exactly how much the bridges can support. “Our customers aren’t buying a tractor trailer bed and sticking it across a creek and hoping that it will hold whatever they decide to take across it,” Haney said.

Originally designed for temporary use, the bridges can be installed and moved quickly from one place to another. In fact, once the site is prepared, the bridges can be operational in about an hour. Site prep is minimal. It only requires a 5-foot level surface on each side of the stream to support the bridge weight. “It’s just a matter of bringing the bridge in, setting the two panels side by side and bolting them together then adding railings, curbs, those sorts of things,” Haney explained. “Literally, I’ve seen one installed in less than an hour.”

And the bridges are environmentally friendly. Because they simply rest on the existing banks of the stream, they do not cause stream siltation or erosion during installation, use, or removal. Since they literally span the entire width of the stream, they don’t restrict the flow or any debris.

Uses
The E&H bridges can be temporary or permanent and purchased or leased. In addition to the oil & gas and timber industries, the bridges are used for flood relief, as temporary crossing to perform wetland studies and as permanent access to parks, other recreational areas and on farms and private access roads. The West Virginia Division of Highways has approved the E&H structures as overlays on weight-restricted DOH bridges.

“We’re trying to become more aggressive in marketing our bridges,” Haney said. “Until recently, they were sort of a side part of our business but now they’ve been elevated to one of the more important parts of our business.”

The company’s new website (www.eandhmanufacturing.com) highlights the one-of-a-kind bridges, and E&H has contracted with a marketing professional to create Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube pages, assist with social media marketing and provide search engine optimization for its website.

The RCBI Connection
E&H recently was awarded an Early-Stage Funding grant from the Robert C. Byrd Institute (RCBI) to cover the cost of creating 3D computer renderings of the bridge and a 3D-printed model that the company can use at tradeshows and events to demonstrate specific features of the bridge. RCBI Design Engineer Chris Shaffer used drawings and an earlier (albeit cruder) model to create a 3D rendering, which then was 3D printed in full color on RCBI’s Stratasys J850 printer. The model even includes a QR code on the bridge deck that can be scanned and links to the company website.

“RCBI has done something I’ve wanted to do for years: create a lifelike model of our bridge that’s light, easy to carry and shows potential customers its different features,” Haney said. “It’s beautiful.” The model was the centerpiece of Haney’s display during the 2023 Construction & Design Expo in Charleston. RCBI technicians also created a foam case to protect the model during transport.

With money that remains in the Early-Stage award, Haney said the company may work with RCBI to achieve ISO 9001 certification, an international quality standard required to do business with many large companies and some government agencies.

James Westbrook, RCBI’s government contracting specialist and a U.S. Navy veteran, said he believes the bridges have practical applications for several government agencies such as FEMA and the U.S. military. Westbrook is assisting E&H in completing the registration process and is searching for specific government contracting opportunities for the company.

“I think the relationship that is developing with RCBI is very positive,” Haney said. “You guys have a lot of capabilities and you just know a lot of people, which is important because sometimes it’s just making the right connections.”

To learn more about E&H’s bridges or its line of specialty equipment for the oil & gas industry, visit www.eandhmanufacturing.com. For more information on RCBI technical services, visit www.mfg.marshall.edu/technical-services.

March 29, 2023

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