For a city like Amsterdam that has over 1,500 bridges the news of one more being built may not seem that exciting, but a 3D printed steel bridge, executed by a robot that prints in mid-air, now that deserves some attention. MX3D is the company that’s making this happen and they’ve designed a robot that will 3D print a footbridge over one of Amsterdam’s famous canals.
In collaboration with their partners Autodesk and Heijmans, MX3D has developed a robot with a welding machine attached to it, which has the ability to print strong and durable structures out of metals in virtually any shape or size. It’s also equipped to detect errors that may come up and correct them in real time. The bridge in Amsterdam will be built using a 6-axis robot in what they’re calling an example of “printing outside the box”. With a rotating arm that can go in any direction, MX3D’s will not be limited as standard 3D printers are, and is capable of printing essentially any structure. Furthermore, the robot functions without supports or scaffolding, it uses the edges of the bridge as support, moving along as it prints.
This would be the first fully functional steel bridge in the world to be made by 3D printing and is a big test for the future of this technology. Not only will the new bridge be functional and durable, able to withhold regular foot traffic, it’s also been designed by founder Joris Larman with a sleek and intricate design thats meant to contrast the historic city centre in which it’s being placed.
There are certainly a number of challenges ahead for this company, but if they can pull this off, it would prove that 3D printing can have a real impact on how cities are built and designed in the future, from design to construction. The hope is of course that as this technology advances we will get better, more cost-efficient and quicker executed projects in our city spaces . In theory 3D printing of the “outside the box” kind, can be used to build railings, garbage collection facilities, lamp posts, playgrounds, the list is truly endless. Beyond all the hype that’s been brewing in the past several years about how 3D printing can change our lives, this project is really putting it to the test by constructing a functional and large-scale piece of infrastructure for a city.
The exact location of the bridge will soon be revealed and those interested can follow along in the construction and developed plans when a visitors center will open up in September 2015 in Amsterdam. For now the plan is set to make the 3D printed bridge a reality in 2017, with the printing process taking about 2 months.