In the fall of 2017, a Dutch startup will launch a 3-D construction project that could revolutionize the world of civil engineering.
Design firm MX3D plans to use computer-guided robotic arms to 3-D print a bridge across a canal in Amsterdam.
Amazingly, the robots, which are tipped with welders, will construct the bridge in front of them as they go, literally printing welded steel in midair.
This is a radical departure from traditional 3-D printers, which operate in an enclosed box and build objects by stacking numerous thin layers of material.
Discussing the so-called “six-axis” or “six-degree-of-freedom” robots, MX3D CTO Tim Geurtjens said:
“By printing with six-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.”
By sequentially welding new steel as it’s printed, the robots can create 3-D structures that don’t need any additional support. Check out the video below to see them in action:
The bridge project will take about two months to complete, and the finished structure will be 24 feet long. Designers at MX3D say it will be just as strong as any other bridge and will be able to support foot traffic.
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MX3D was founded by Joris Laarman, a designer who, according to ZDNet, uses 3-D printers to create furniture and art.
The symbolism of a 3-D printed bridge in Amsterdam, a city whose landscape is teeming with canals and bridges, isn’t lost on Laarman. He says:
“This bridge will show how 3-D printing finally enters the world of large-scale, functional objects and sustainable materials while allowing unprecedented freedom of form. 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.”