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Wait … What??

That’s right. Dutch company MX3D plans on 3D printing a steel pedestrian bridge over a canal in Amsterdam.

MX3D is an R&D company working to develop cost-effective robotic 3D printing technology. The company has invented a 3D printing tool in the form of a six-axis industrial robot with an advanced welding machine that can 3D print metals and resin in mid-air, without the need for support structures. The tool adds small amounts of molten metal at a time, enabling it to print extremely intricate metal shapes.

The first production test of the process will be a bridge in the center of Amsterdam. The structure will be printed in the span of two months. The printing will use multiple robots and take place on location—not in a factory setting. The tools will print their own supportive railing as well as the steel the bridge. The project is a collaboration between MX3D, designer Joris Laarman, Autodesk, construction company Heijmans, and others.

  Visual of canal printing steel bridge

Computer rendering of the steel pedestrian bridge during printing.
Photo courtesy of Joris Laarman for MX3D.

The ‘compute’ and ‘create’ aspects of Reality Capture are at the core of this endeavor. Laarman is designing the bridge using the Autodesk software. MX3D’s website states, “The design of the bridge is a combination of the vision and craft of the artist, and the iterative power of Generative Design tools like Dreamcatcher. The team is also breaking away from traditional industrial robotic control strategies, using more intuitive systems based on technologies like Dynamo.”

3D printing is a well-established technology used by manufacturers for cost-effective prototyping, mold-making, and small-scale production. But its use for building and infrastructure construction has been limited to experiments with concrete structures. Large-scale 3D printing of metal and mixed material structures could have revolutionary ramifications for the construction industry.

Although the exact location hasn’t been announced yet, the bridge is scheduled to be printed in 2017. ‘Scheduled to be printed’  ….  a phrase not often used in conjunction with bridge construction!

In addition to the MX3D’s website and YouTube video above, check out these articles about the project:

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