Dutch start-up company MX3D has designed robots that will 3D print a steel bridge in thin air. The designer, Joris Laarman, has previously used robots to 3D print metal sculptures. Now, Laarman is working with Autodesk engineering software to design a full scale bridge that will be 3D printed on site over a canal in Amsterdam.
The groundbreaking additive manufacturing method could be used for larger 3D printed construction projects in the future. MX3D developed software to control six-axis robots that are equipped with special arms that heat metal to 1,500° C before welding the structure. This enables the robots to 3D print structures made of metals and resin in mid-air, without the need for support structures.
The upcoming steel bridge project is meant to demonstrate the possibility of 3D printing infrastructure. While MX3D’s previous work has taken place in a controlled indoor setting, in 2017, robots will build a bridge outside, in mid-air over a canal. They will cross the water by printing metal rail supports and sliding forward until they meet in the middle. In a statement on the MX3D website, designer Laarman said, “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. 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.”