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How does the Wimbledon Centre Court roof work?

As the Wimbledon Championships head towards the end of the first week’s play, spectators at the All England Club’s Centre Court have enjoyed uninterrupted play thanks to the stadium’s retractable roof.

The Centre Court roof, which was installed in time for the 2009 Championships at a cost of £80-100 million, enables play to continue up to 11pm and features some very impressive engineering.

The concertina roof consists of nine bays (five at the north end, four at the south end) made up of strong, flexible fabric stretched between steel trusses.

At the ends of these bays are wheeled carriages (bogies) sitting on a track. When the roof is activated, 40 servo motors, controlled by 196 servo drives, move the bays at a maximum speed of 214 mm per second to unfold the fabric and allow the structure to meet in the middle.

The 3,000-tonne roof takes 10 minutes to fully close, with programmable logic controllers (PLCs) monitoring its movement to ensure it does not deviate more than 3 mm before the central bays meet.

As soon as the roof closes, the air-management system sets to work supplying 143,000 litres of conditioned air per second, maintaining a temperature of 22-26°C and relative humidity of 40-60 per cent for the comfort of up to 15,000 spectators.

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