3D Printed Steel Bridge To Be Constructed in Amsterdam
In the world of construction, 3D printing has now become the technology that can take over the pivotal role of creating large-scale, functional projects in future, a fact that will be demonstrated by the construction of a 3D printed bridge in the center of Amsterdam.
The bridge will be made on-location and literally out of thin air, which is what makes this project unique. Otherwise this bridge construction project would just amount to to using 3D printing as an advanced mold creation technique, while the rest of the construction work proceeds as is usually the case in such engineering undertakings. Understandably, the grandeur idea is beyond many people’s imagination, but a video demonstration of how the process will go about immediately puts the the viability of this concept into perspective.
Truthfully, the 3D printing a steel bridge is unlike a typical 3D printing project. The version of 3D printing to be used on the Amsterdam bridge offers better scalability and cost efficiency in comparison other 3D printing methods. The technical capabilities of this 3D printer, which is provided by MX3D, a Dutch startup, are quite remarkable. The machine to be used is capable of printing 3D structures using strong durable materials such as metal and plastic.
There is an even simpler way to understand how this large-scale 3D printer works. The machine consists of an industrial-size robotic arm that is connected to an advanced welding machine. Essentially, the robot arm goes back and forth to print various metallic and plastic shapes based on computer models. The whole technology is driven by a highly intelligent software that is able to coordinate every aspect of the technology and make it deliver practical results.
The plan will involve two or more 3D printers. Ideally, a printer will be placed on either of the banks, while a robotic arm prints the steel structure from either end so that the two sides of the bridge meet at the middle.
As expected, the initial attempts to use the concept were not without their fair share of problems. At one point, the welding machine exploded, nozzles got stuck, and the robot got disoriented. But in the end, the machine was able to work as expected and produce a small-sized structure that offers the physical qualities expected in the final model. The entire technology can now create a complex and structurally sound steel structure within a 3-dimensional space. It is practically similar to drawing in the air using metal. Some tweaking also helped to speed up the process so that the actual project moves at a decent pace.
The 3D bridge printing project was made possible by the collaboration of various parties. The impression of the bridge is credited to Joris Laarman, a Dutch designer. Additionally, a Dutch construction company, Heijmans, will provide the knowledge needed on bridge construction and some of the required technology. Of course, as mentioned earlier, MX3D, a Dutch startup company, will provide the software to power the robots and enable them to print small and large parts using various materials. A number of other companies have gotten behind the project as sponsors, including Autodesk, Lenovo, Air Liquide, Within, ABB robotics, Delcam, STV, and even public partners such as the Amsterdam City Council and TU Delft.