This twisted metal bridge in Amsterdam was 3D printed by welding robots

For the past three years, the Dutch 3D-printing company MX3D has been working to build what is possibly the world’s coolest steel footbridge. Designed to stretch across Amsterdam’s Oudezijds Achterburgwal canal, the quasi-organic-looking footbridge looks like something H.R. Giger would’ve created had he pursued a career in civil engineering.

Aside from its look, what makes the bridge exciting is its method of construction — which involved four special welding robots capable of laying down layers of molten metal.

“We use industrial robots that are commonly used in the car industry and fit them with high-end MIG-welding equipment,” Tim Geurtjens, co-founder of MX3D, told Digital Trends. “What turns that combination into a 3D printer is the software and strategies we have developed for driving the robot, and for getting a grip on the very complex welding process. Simply explained, we melt a thin wire of just about any metal you would like and deposit that upon the last layer. This way the part keeps on growing. The material that it results in is strong, durable and homogenous, just about as good as the material you put in.”

Despite this superior technology, however, Geurtjens says the process wasn’t always straightforward. “This whole project has been a great challenge,” he acknowledged. “All we knew was that we wanted to print a metal bridge with the technique we, at that time, had just started developing.”

Originally, the idea was to print the bridge “live” over the canal. But this ambitious idea — which would have made for spectacular viewing for passers-by — fell by the wayside, due to permits, budget, and time constraints. As a result, the team printed the bridge in their workshop. They also had to scale down some of the wackier aspects of the design, although the finished product still looks spectacular.

“In the design process, sometimes our imagination proved to be a bit too wild for the sometimes conservative construction world,” he said. “The level of complexity that could be achieved by our printers could not be handled by the structural engineering software for instance. However, I think that the final design shows very well what the possibilities of additive manufacturing in general and our printers in particular are. These organic, optimized forms would not have been possible to print with any other technique.”

Now that the bridge is finished, the team will next put it through its paces for load-bearing, using a variety of smart sensors and 3D scanners to test for its durability. By October 2018, final tests will be carried out and the bridge can then be installed.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Outdoors

High-tech but low-key, these are the amazing materials inside your outdoor gear

We take a look at some of the materials that are used in the creation of our favorite outdoor gear, making our jackets, sleeping bags, tents, and other items warmer, drier, and more comfortable even in harsh weather conditions.
Mobile

The best Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus cases to keep your titanic phone safe

The new Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus is a gorgeous device, with one of the best dual-lens cameras we've ever seen. Keep your titanic device safe and scratch-free with the best Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus cases.
Mobile

Avoid scratches and dents with the 20 best iPhone 8 Plus cases

So you've got a new iPhone? Congrats! But with a glass design, and looks to die for, you'd best keep it safe. Not sure about the best case choice? Check out our guide to the best iPhone 8 Plus cases for some great ideas.
Emerging Tech

Descending at an angle could be key to landing heavier craft on Mars

Landing on Mars is a challenge: The heavier the craft, the more difficult a safe landing becomes. Scientists propose using retropropulsion engines and angling the craft to create a pressure differential to land heavier crafts in the future.
Emerging Tech

Ant-inspired walking robot navigates without GPS by using polarized light

What do you get if you cross Boston Dynamics and Ant-Man? You get Antbot, a robot from the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) which uses ant-like navigation to move around without the aid of GPS.
Emerging Tech

InSight’s heat probe will dig 16 feet beneath the surface of Mars

New images from NASA's InSight mission to Mars have confirmed that the lander succeeded in setting the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package instrument onto the surface, from where a self-hammering spike will burrow downwards.
Emerging Tech

White spots on Ceres are evidence of ancient ice volcanoes erupting

Scientists are pouring over data collected by NASA's Dawn mission to learn about the dwarf planet Ceres and the bright white spots observed at the bottom of impact craters. They believe that these spots are evidence of ice volcanoes.
Emerging Tech

NASA to launch SPHEREx mission to investigate the origins of our universe

NASA is launching an ambitious mission to map the entire sky to understand the origins of the universe. The Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) mission will launch in 2023.
Emerging Tech

Probes exploring Earth’s hazardous radiation belts enter final phase of life

The Van Allen probes have been exploring the radiation belts around Earth for seven years. Now the probes are moving into the final phase of their exploration, coming closer to Earth to gather more data before burning up in the atmosphere.
Emerging Tech

How can digital art created on obsolete platforms be preserved?

As the lines between art and technology continue to blur, digital art experiences become more commonplace. But these developments are raising an important question for art conservationists: How should digital artworks be preserved?
Emerging Tech

Statistician raises red flag about reliability of machine learning techniques

Machine learning is everywhere in science and technology. But how reliable are these techniques really? A statistician argues that questions of accuracy and reproducibility of machine learning have not been fully addressed.
Emerging Tech

Chandra X-ray telescope uncovers evidence of the universe’s missing matter

Where is all of the matter in the universe? NASA's Chandra telescope has uncovered evidence of hot gas strands in the vicinity of a quasar which could explain the missing third of matter which has puzzled astronomers for years.
Emerging Tech

Wish you could fly? You totally can with these top-of-the-line drones

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.