The amazing technology behind 3D printing has come a long way, and now it’s even spanning a bridge. A 3D-printed stainless steel pedestrian bridge opened in Amsterdam on July 15, and its elegant curves and latticework were laid down over six months by robotic arms wielding welding gear.
The bridge weighs 4,500 kilos, or nearly 10,000 pounds, and it’s temporary — the bridge it’s replacing for two years is being renovated right now. The 40-foot bridge is in Amsterdam’s central red-light district, and it crosses the Oudezijds Achterburgwal, one of the many canals in the city.
There’s no substitute for seeing something like this in person, but the photos do show off the bridge’s unusual arcing lines and striations. (I’d still like to go there to walk across it myself!)
Architecture and design magazine Dezeen reported that the original concept for the bridge was to build it on site over the canal, with robotic arms on either bank 3D printing the bridge until they met in the middle. Instead, it was built offsite and placed by a crane after construction.
But the technological wonder with this bridge goes beyond the fact that it happens to be a massive 3D-printed object. It’s also jam-packed with sensors that researchers at Imperial College London will be using for real-time monitoring of the bridge. They’ll use the data to develop a “digital twin” to track its performance as pedestrians use it, and it’s exposed to environmental changes throughout the year.
The bridge is named the MX3D Bridge for the company that created it.
“If you want to have a really highly decorated bridge or really aesthetic bridge, suddenly it becomes a good option to print it,” MX3D’s Tim Geurtjens told the Associated Press. “Because it’s not just about making things cheaper and more efficient for us, it’s about giving architects and designers a new tool — a new very cool tool — in which they can rethink the design of their architecture and their designs.”