- Pedestrians in Amsterdam can now cross the world’s first 3D printed steel bridge.
- The architectural work required 4.9 tons of stainless steel and four years of research.
- Intelligent sensors on the bridge will monitor stress, movement, vibration, and temperature.
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The world’s first 3D printed steel bridge has opened in Amsterdam in the Netherlands.
While the construction is a fantastic structural achievement in itself, it will also function as a living laboratory so researchers can study how other more complex architectural work can be achieved in the future.
The 3D printed steel bridge was made by Imperial College London.
Managed by Dutch company MX3D, the bridge is 12 meters long and weighs 4.9 tons.
It was built by four industrial robots and entailed six months of printing.
Though it only took six months to build, its construction also required more than four years of hard work by the researchers prior to it being built.
The robots used welding torches to deposit each printed layer of the bridge.
The structure was transported to its location over the Oudezijds Achterburgwal canal in Amsterdam’s Red Light District last week.After being unveiled by Queen Maxima of the Netherlands, it is now open to pedestrians and cyclists, New Scientist reported.
It was inaugurated by a robot on July 15, 2021.
This is a huge milestone given that there has never been a 3D printed metal structure large and strong enough to handle pedestrian traffic, so far, the main developments have been in housing.
With a vast network of sensors installed on its structure, the bridge is a significant data hub.
Its sensors make it possible to measure changes to the bridge over its lifetime, to check its health in real time, and to pinpoint the public’s interaction with the 3D printed civil engineering infrastructure.
Data from the sensors will be placed on a digital twin of the bridge, a computerized version that will mimic the physical bridge with increasing accuracy in real time as sensor data is input.
The simultaneous information will allow the performance and long-term behavior of the 3D printed steel to be monitored.
To move from the conceptual stage to the installed walkway, Imperial College’s Steel Structures Research Group conducted related research, which included destructive force-testing on printed elements, advanced computer simulations for the digital twin, nondestructive real-world testing on the walkway, and the development of an advanced sensor network to monitor the behavior of the bridge throughout its life.
“Research into this new technology for the construction industry has huge potential for the future, in terms of aesthetics and highly optimized and efficient design, with reduced material usage,” said Craig Buchanan, of Imperial College’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and co-leader of the project.
“3D printing presents vast opportunities for the construction industry, providing much greater freedom in terms of material properties and shapes,” added Leroy Gardner, the project’s other co-director. “This freedom also brings a number of challenges and will require structural engineers to think in new ways.”