Robotic printers will be used to gradually weld the structure, in what will be the first large-scale test of 3D printing technology
Its already been used to create body parts, mechanical gears, custom shoes and musical instruments. Now, a Dutch start-up is planning perhaps the most ambitious use of 3D printing yet: a bridge, to be placed across a canal in the centre of Amsterdam.
The engineering company behind the plans, MX3D, will start ‘printing’ the steel bridge over one of the city’s canals in September using robotic technology. Starting on one side of the water, the robotic arms will essentially weave the steel structure, heating the metal to 1,500 degrees Celsius in order to weld the steel and create their own support structure as they go along.
“The underlying principle is very simple,” said the 3D printed bridge’s designer Joris Laarman. “We’ve connected an advanced welding machine to an industrial robot arm. We now use our own intelligent software to operate these machines so they can print very complex metal shapes which can differ each time.”
If successful the project – which also involves the Heijmans construction company and Autodesk software – could be instrumental in the lifting of current restrictions on the shape and size of objects that are 3D-printed: potentially a major stride in terms of 3D printing becoming standard, especially for dangerous tasks, on future construction sites.
The designers are now in talks with Amsterdam city council, which has asserted its support for the project, to find a site for the bridge, which they hope will be completed by mid-2017.
“I strongly believe in the future of digital manufacturing and local production,” said Laarman. “It’s a new form of craftsmanship.”