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 Image credit: Adriaan de Groot

Image credit: Adriaan de Groot

Dutch firm creates world's first 3D printed steel bridge

30-10-2018

The world’s first 3D-printed steel bridge created by Dutch robotics company MX3D, mathematicians from The Alan Turing Institute and Arup is completed and will be installed across a canal in Amsterdam next year, a report said.

The bridge has already been on display during the Dutch Design Week that took place from October 20 to October 28, reported 3ders.org.

Since 2015, Dutch designer Joris Laarman has been working with the robotic manufacturing technology start-up to build this ambitious 12-metre-long pedestrian bridge project. Now, nearly four years after he started the project, the bridge is fully printed and ready to start its final installation in Amsterdam’s De Wallen red-light district.

"We hope it will be installed in summer. We just started the permit process as we have now all the positive results from the tests," MX3D was quoted as saying in the report.

"The city just started the renovations work on the canal wall we have been waiting for two years. This work could be done in six months."

The bridge is 12 metres (40 feet) in length, and was 3D printed at a larger MX3D facility outside of Amsterdam, before being shipped into the main workshop in the north of the city.

The initial plan was to 3D print the entire thing in place in mid-air, using custom robotic 3D printing arms suspended over the canal to gradually build supporting structures underneath and move their way across. As exciting as this possibility was, the project was eventually abandoned due to concerns about control over the environment and interference from pedestrians. After some other teething problems and delays for this pioneering 3D printed bridge project, it is now completely finished.

3D printing technology isn’t the only cutting-edge aspect of this remarkable new project. To ensure safety and optimized performance of this and other bridges, the 3D printed steel structure will be equipped with a series of sensors that will relay important information back to the designers and engineers.

This ‘smart’ bridge will monitor its own health, record the number of people walking across it and their speeds, and take measurements of things like weight dispersion and air quality. A ‘digital twin’ bridge model will also be created from the gathered data, allowing future designs to be compared and adapted accordingly.

The designers and engineers say the ultimate goal is to have robots that can someday autonomously build our infrastructure, tirelessly toiling away on site without the help of humans.

As well as being a one-of-a-kind project, the aesthetics of the bridge are also relatively unique. Its design is organic and fabric-like, with lots of curves, and the surface of the bridge has been left unbuffed after construction. This means that the many different layers of deposited steel from the 3D printing process are visible, giving it a rough, unusual finish.




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