3D printing started out with tiny plastic structures, and over time it has moved on to larger, more complex, and more solid things, from duck prosthetics to airplane engine parts. Will the next step be infrastructure?
A company named MX3D intends to do just that, with the help of Dutch designer Joris Laaram and Autodesk (providing the software to make this happen). The goal is to use robots to 3D-print a steel bridge over a canal in Amsterdam, basically creating the bridge out of thin-air, like in the rendering above.
Particularly challenging is that the robots will be printing their own supporting structures, so any early mistake or miscalculation will be fatal to the project.
“I strongly believe in the future of digital production and local production, 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," said Joris Laarman, the designer of the bridge. "The symbolism of the bridge is a beautiful metaphor to connect the technology of the future with the old city, in a way that brings out the best of both worlds.”
“What distinguishes our technology from traditional 3D printing methods is that we work according to the ‘Printing Outside the box’ principle," said Tim Geurtjens, Chief Technology Officer at MX3D. "By printing with 6-axis industrial robots, we are no longer limited to a square box in which everything happens. Printing a functional, life-size bridge is of course the ideal way to showcase the endless possibilities of this technique.”
You can see a video here showing some of the creation process as well as the robots in action on a small test bridge:
The exact future location of the bridge hasn't been announced yet, but it should be soon.
For more on innovative 3D printing, check out: Liquid 3-D printing makes existing tech look antiquated