To complete the bridge, multi-axis industrial robots will be fitted with 3D printing tools and controlled using custom software that enables the robots to print metals, plastics, and combinations of materials. Dutch construction company Heijmans will be completing a steel bridge in the center of Amsterdam using what on paper seems like a futuristic method: with a 3D printer, robots, and steel. The project was initiated by Dutch startup MX3D using a design by Joris Laarman, the company said in a statement. The bridge project, in partnership with Autodesk and a number of other supporters, is possible thanks to MX3D’s earlier efforts to 3D print using six-axis robotic arms.
These computer-guided robotic arms tipped with welders to 3D print a steel bridge in midair over a canal in Amsterdam. The robots print using steel, stainless steel, aluminum, bronze, or copper. They make lines in the air, without the need for support structures, by sequentially building welds in any direction in space. And eventually they’ll even print tracks to move along as their creation materializes below. The new technique is cost-effective and scalable, more than current 3D printing methods, and offers creative robot production solutions for art, construction, and more. The future of digital production and local production is in the new craft. This bridge will show how 3D printing finally enters the world of large-scale, functional objects and sustainable materials while allowing unprecedented freedom of form.
Opening in September 2015 is a visitor center that will give the public access to the project’s progress. MX3D and the city of Amsterdam will announce the exact location soon. In fall of 2017, they’ll set up robots on opposite banks of a canal in Amsterdam (final design and location TBD) and hit the print button. Over the course of two months, the robots will simultaneously print the bridge from each bank, eventually meeting in the middle to join the halves. This being the Netherlands, MX3D decided that 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. The finished bridge will measure 24 feet long. Constructed using a steel composite specially developed at the University of Delft, it will be as strong as any other bridge and able to handle regular foot traffic for years to come.