On July 15, the city of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, inaugurated the world’s first fully 3D printed steel bridge. The performance of the structure, installed above the Oudezijds Achterburgwal canal, will be regularly measured by researchers at Imperial College London.
3D printing has grown considerably in recent years. And in the field of construction, we intend to take advantage of it. Houses, schools, residential neighborhoods, hundreds of structures are gradually emerging from the ground. Several decks are also available. For almost three years now, in the industrial center of Shanghai’s Baoshan district, pedestrians have been able to walk on a 26.3-meter-long 3D-printed concrete bridge. It is one of the largest 3D prints of its kind ever created in the construction industry.
First printed steel bridge
More recently, the Dutch capital, Amsterdam, offered the very first printed steel bridge. The twelve-meter-long structure was developed by engineers at Imperial College London in partnership with Dutch company MX3D. Inaugurated on July 15 by Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, its development lasted more than four years. Four robots, six months of construction and around 4,500 kilograms of stainless steel were needed to build it layer by layer.
“A 3D printed metal structure large and strong enough to handle foot traffic has never been built before,” said Prof Leroy Gardner, who participated in the research. “We tested the structure and its components throughout the printing process to completion.”
A supervised and temporary structure
The bridge will be used to cross the Oudezijds Achterburgwal canal. A network of sensors will allow researchers at Imperial College to regularly measure its performance. This data will also be made available to other researchers wishing to contribute to this study project.
Cambridge University’s Mark Girolami, who worked on the digital model of the bridge, said this constant data could help detect failures before they cause damage.
The structure, however, is only expected to remain in place for two years, after which the old bridge, currently under renovation, will return to service. In the meantime, the city hopes that this new bridge can attract new tourists to the surrounding area, the Red Light District, known especially for its prostitutes and other coffee-shops.