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Dutch robots to print seamless steel bridge

by John Bambridge on Jun 14, 2015

3D structures and components have been printed before, but not in-situ and in one piece.
3D structures and components have been printed before, but not in-situ and in one piece.

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Dutch designer Joris Laarman has designed a steel pedestrian bridge that will be 3D printed in-situ by robotic arms – an effort set for completion by 2017 in an unannounced location in Amsterdam.

The versatile robots involved in the project are able to rotate their arms along six different planes of movement, and will print the load-bearing structure to support their own weight as they work – allowing them to work their way from one side of a canal to the other, printing seamlessly as they go.

“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 Laarman.

“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.”

The project builds on technology already developed by Jaarman to allow industrial robots to “draw” metal structures in the air – enabling 3D technology to migrate from factory to construction site.

“By printing with six-axis industrial robots, we are no longer limited to a square box,” noted Tim Geurtjens, CTO at MX3D. “A functional, life-size bridge is the ideal way to showcase the endless possibilities of this technique.”

Maurice Conti, Autodesk’s director of strategic innovation, added: “The MX3D platform is a potential game changer – it opens up relatively low-cost, architectural-scale metal structures as complex as the designer’s imagination.”

The concept was developed by MX3D, a technology start-up launched by the Joris Laarman Lab to investigate ways of printing large, sophisticated structures.

Joris Laarman inspects a robotic arm at work on a prototype free-standing steel structure.