3D printers to construct steel bridge in Amsterdam

Robots building steel bridges may revolutionise construction industry, opening endless possibilities

Photo by: MX3D
Photo by: MX3D

Updated Jul 28, 2015

A Dutch startup has announced that it will build the world’s first 3D printed steel bridge across one of the historical canals of Amsterdam, Netherlands, by mid-2017.

“We thought to ourselves: what is the most iconic thing we could print in public that would show off what our technology is capable of?” the bridge's designer and the company founder Joris Laarman told Fast Company in a phone interview.

“We decided a bridge over an old city canal was a pretty good choice. Not only is it good for publicity, but if MX3D can construct a bridge out of thin air, it can construct anything.”

MX3D has designed specialised robots that can heat a steel composite developed by University of Delft to 1,500 degrees celsius and then weld it drop-by-drop in mid-air in all six axis.

"The underlying principle is very simple. We have connected an advanced welding machine to an industrial robot arm," said Laarman.

The company teamed up with the engineering and architecture software firm Autodesk to overcome hurdles such as missed or extra drops causing the whole design stray into surrealism. 

“Robots tend to assume that the universe is made of absolutes, even though that's not true. So we need to program them to have real-time feedback loops, and adapt in real-time, without even being told to,” Maurice Conti, chief of Autodesk’s Applied Research Lab, told the magazine that releases 10 issues per year on technology, business and design.

MX3D spokeswoman told AFP that the bridge will be the first ever large-scale deployment of the technology and a showcase for the technique to be seen in construction sites.

"This bridge can show how 3D printing has finally entered the world of large-scale functional objects and sustainable materials," Laarman said.

Amsterdam city council later will decide location of the bridge which will be about 7.5 metres.

TRTWorld and agencies