Last week, a 12-meter-long steel pedestrian bridge opened in Amsterdam. This steel bridge, unlike others throughout the world, was not formed in a furnace. It had been 3D printed.
The bridge, the first of its type, was built using stainless steel rods welded by robotic arms at the workshop of the Dutch technology company MX3D, in partnership with engineering firm Arup. Joris Laarman Lab, a Dutch design studio, created it. The bridge weights 6 tons and took six months to 3D-print by robots before being craned into place across the Oudezijds Achterburgwal, one of Amsterdam’s oldest canals in the Red Light District.
Aside from providing a method of crossing the canal, the bridge is a living lab, with concealed sensors that collect real-time data regarding the overpass’s operation. Each time someone walks, runs, or cycles across the bridge, the sensors create data that Imperial College London experts will use to monitor the bridge’s structure and health. Strain, displacement, vibration, air quality, and temperature will all be measured by the sensors.
This data will be utilized to develop the bridge’s digital twin—a computational version that will mimic the physical bridge—which will then be able to forecast how the structure will react when the bridge is used. This will allow maintenance needs to be identified as soon as possible, as well as assist engineers in understanding how 3D printed steel might be employed for bigger scale and more complex building projects.
“There has never been a 3D-printed metal structure large and sturdy enough to handle foot traffic.” We evaluated and modelled the structure and its components during the printing process and after it was completed, and it’s amazing to have it finally available to the public,” says a structural engineer from Imperial London College, Leroy Gardner.
Despite its innovative design, the bridge is not intended to be permanent. It will only be in place for two years while the bridge that previously crossed the canal is being repaired.
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