Research and development startup, MX3D, are creating the world’s first 3D-printed bridge across an Amsterdam canal with several new innovative techniques that could alter the future of construction. By using six-axis robotic arms, they will be taking 3D printing away from the “in-the-box” process that most associate with current 3D printing . Instead, their robotic arms will draw the steel structures as they go, tracking along the bridge, welding with specialized equipment that will allow them to heat the metal to 1,500 degrees celsius ( ~2700 degrees fahrenheit ) and assemble the bridge in what they call a drop-by-drop method.

The below animation shows how the robots will build their own supports, thus making the process entirely autonomous.


Animation of robotic arms 3D printing a bridge. MX3D

“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,” says designer Joris Laarman on MX3D’s website.

Could this new technique open the doors to a paradigm shift in building city infrastructure? Certainly it would be a major benefit in dangerous locations or situation that you don’t want humans working, like atop tall buildings or cliff edges, etc.  And with the freedom gained from moving out of the box, it is likely we will see innovators around the world pushing this technique in a plethora of new and exciting ways.

While MX3D currently does not have a site selected, they are in talks with city council to select a location in the hopes that construction can be completed by mid-2017. 4546A computer image of the robotic printers that will ‘draw’ the steel bridge in 3D. Photograph: Joris Laarman/AFP/Getty Images