A robot that 3D-prints steel is building a bridge in Amsterdam

A 3D-printing company based in Amsterdam has developed a multi-axis robotic 3D printer capable of building structures in thin air. With this revolutionary technology, it hopes to bridge the gap between 3D printing at home and construction by, erm, building a bridge.

Despite the rather literal idiom, the Netherland’s design company MX3D is aiming to show exactly what its robots are capable of. As it says on the project website, this is “the ultimate test”, showing “what our robots and software, engineers, craftsmen and designers can do”.

MX3D’s robot will print the bridge designed by Joris Laarman using a special metal resin known as MX3D-Metal. Thanks to the fast-setting resin, along with a built-in welder, the robot will be able to “draw” the bridge in the air, creating its own supports as it goes.

The plan for construction will see two pairs of robot arms building the bridge from opposite sides of the canal, meeting in the middle to complete the structure. This should not only help construction move faster, but it should also mean there’s less strain on the bridge as the robot arms move past the halfway mark.

“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.”

Construction on the bridge is set to begin in September 2015, but there’s no word on a completion date nor expected construction time. If MX3D can build a bridge faster and safer than traditional means, then perhaps there is a place for 3D printing in large-scale construction.

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