3D printing technology has been put to all kinds of weird and wonderful uses as it moves further towards mainstream use, and the latest ambitious project being tackled by the experts is a fully functioning bridge across one of Amsterdam’s canals.
3D printing research and development firm MX3D is in charge of the operation, getting help along the way from the likes of software developers Autodesk and construction outfit Heijmans. What makes the idea particularly interesting is that everything will be automated — 3D-printing robots will start on one bank and gradually make their way over to the opposite side, building as they go.
The bridge isn’t just showing off how far 3D printing has come, it actually has some practical value too — imagine robots being able to build their own supply lines through emergency disaster areas for example, where existing road and rail infrastructure has been disrupted for whatever reason.
“What distinguishes our technology from traditional 3D printing methods is that we work according to the ‘printing outside the box’ principle,” says Tim Geurtjens, CTO at MX3D. “By printing with six-axis industrial robots, we are no longer limited to a square box in which everything happens. Printing a functional, life-size bridge is of course the ideal way to showcase the endless possibilities of this technique.”
The robots will be creating the bridge out of steel, heating up the raw material to around 2,732 degrees Fahrenheit (1,500 degrees Celsius) before welding the structure in place — the resulting bridge will be strong, sturdy, and protected against the elements. MX3D says a visitor center where people will be able to follow the progress of the robots is going to open in September, though as yet the exact location of the bridge hasn’t been confirmed.
Amsterdam seems to be the place to be as far as 3D printing innovation goes: You may remember we featured the story of a full-sized 3D-printed house under construction in the Dutch capital last year. The technology remains too cumbersome and too expensive for household use, but it’s set to become far more accessible and capable in the years to come.
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