Amsterdam Architects to Create 3D Printed Bridge

Architects and designers have been using 3D printers in surprising and groundbreaking ways over the last several years, with many of them proposing ambitious projects and uses for the technology that show just how much it has grown in the last half decade, and how much it could still change the way buildings are constructed. The combination of 3D printing and CAD 3D drafting tools is a powerful one, which enterprising architects and planners all over the world are gladly taking advantage of.

Amsterdam is known as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, largely thanks to the many expertly constructed pedestrian bridges that cross its historic canals, the oldest of which is nearly four hundred years old, having been constructed in 1648. The city is very protective of its image as the “Venice of the North,” and has long taken steps to protect its bridges and canals as part of its cultural heritage. In addition to its reputation as home to famous bridges and waterways, Amsterdam is also known as a center of 3D printing activity, becoming a global hotspot for 3D technology development in recent years. In a recently announced project, those two parts of the city’s reputation – bridges and 3D printing – are set to come together, with the creation of the world’s first bridge printed in midair.

Beginning in 2017, engineering and architecture firms Heijmans, MX3D, and Joris Laarman Lab will begin construction on a one-of-a-kind project: the printing of a steel bridge spanning one of Amsterdam’s canals. No humans will be involved in the construction. Instead, two of MX3D’s six-axis robots, capable of crafting with molten metal on horizontal, vertical, and diagonal planes, will construct the bridge, on site, over the course of two months. The robots will begin on either bank of the canal and slowly begin to move up and over the water, leaving the bridge and railing behind them as they move. When they meet in the middle, they will assemble the bridge’s crest and connect their two halves, leaving behind a fully functional bridge capable of carrying foot traffic over the canal.

The city has not yet announced where the bridge will be constructed, but has said that it will make extensive information available through a visitor center starting in September 2015.

Assembling Steel in Midair

The bridge building project relies on tech startup MX3D’s proprietary robots, which have been designed to construct steel structures in midair. Unlike traditional 3D printers, which are limited to constructing within a square space, MX3D’s six-axis 3D printing industrial robots have the potential to usher in an era of new 3D printed architecture. If the bridge building project is successful, other construction projects are sure to notice the robots’ ability to shape molten steel with accuracy and flexibility. Combined with advanced computer aided design software, these robots could be used to construct even more complex structures, reducing building and labor costs dramatically.

Want to learn more about how computer aided design helps streamline the design process and lower costs? Contact the CAD experts at Q-CAD today by calling 800-700-3305.




Canal in Midair, Amsterdam

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