Metallic curves and embellishing contours. The newly opened pedestrian bridge in Amsterdam shimmers in stainless steel. Joris Laarman with MX3D & Arup collaborated to fabricate a 12-metre long 3D printed steel bridge in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Six robotic arms equipped with welding gear spans the Oudezijds Achterburgwal in Amsterdam’s Red Light District, crafted in a factory and assembled on site. the curvaceous form from either side and finishing in the centre.
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Called as MX3D Bridge, the structure integrated 4,500 kilograms of stainless steel, 3D-printed by robots in a factory over six months and craned into position over the canal. They assembled the bridge in two parts, aligning and devising atop the canal, overcoming many challenges.
The design curves like an S with balustrades with lattice-style perforations designed using parametric modelling software. The design team showcased the techniques of 3D-printing technology, and how it can lead to functional structures using less material.
Gijs van der Velden, Co-Founder of MX3D said “This robotic technology finally allows larger optimized designs to be 3D-printed in metal. This causes significant weight reduction and reduced impact for parts manufactured in the tooling, oil and gas and construction industries.”
Stijn Joosten, Structural Engineer at Arup said “The industry is facing a tremendous challenge in becoming carbon-neutral by 2050. By stepping up our game and the will to make a change as designers and engineers, we can bring the necessary innovation to make a difference in tomorrow’s built environment.”
Architect Philip Oldfield, Head of the art, design and architecture school at the University of New South Wales in Australia, calculated and tweeted, that the stainless steel used in the structure measures up to 27.7 tonnes of embodied carbon to span a few metres, specifically 6.15 CO2/kg.
The Alan Turing Institute and Arup tailored the bridge with sensors that allow to record and collect data, building a digital twin to keep track of its performance and health. The digital twin will monitor corrosion, load changes, environmental conditions and pedestrian usage in efforts to further the concept of data-centric design.
Joris Laarman explained the idea for the bridge was to integrate robotic arms with welding machines weaving a machine capable of printing furniture. “By adding small amounts of molten metal at a time, we could print lines in mid-air, ” he added.
The welding machine later formed the basis of MX3D, which Laarman co-founded to explore the potential for printing larger-scale objects. The bridge has undergone multiple iterations since its inception in 2015. The original plan was to 3D print and fabricate the entire structure across the canal in situ, with robots working from both banks welding the bridge beneath them until they met in the middle. The final iteration ensued the bridge built as two parts at an off-site facility. The designers strengthened the structure to be more in line with council regulations and protection against potential boat collisions.
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