APPLICATION CONSTRUCTION

Queen Máxima of the Netherlands unveiled the World’s First 3D Printed Steel Footbridge in Amsterdam

3D printed steel bridge
Above: Queen Maxima of the Netherlands unveiled the 3D printed steel bridge developed by MX3D/Image Source: Imperial College London

MX3D, developer of the first Robotic Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM) software to enable end-to-end, large-scale 3D metal printing, announced that the world’s first 3D printed steel bridge, co-developed by Imperial College London, one of the world’s leading universities, has been unveiled by Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands in Amsterdam.

The 3D printed steel bridge is fitted with a wide range of sensors to measure, monitor and analyse the performance of the novel 12-metre-long structure as it handles pedestrian traffic. The data collected will enable researchers and engineers to measure the bridge’s ‘health’ in real time, monitor how it changes over its lifespan and understand how the public interacts with 3D printed infrastructure. 

This data will be simultaneously be updated into a ‘digital twin’ of the bridge – a computerised version which will imitate the physical bridge with growing accuracy in real time as sensor data come in. The performance and behaviour of the physical bridge will be tested against the twin, which will help answer questions about the long-term behaviour of 3D printed steel, as well as its use in real world settings and in future novel construction projects. 

digital twin
Above: MX3D digital twin/Image Source: Imperial College London

To get from the conceptual stage to the installed footbridge, the Steel Structures Research Group at Imperial conducted the underpinning research and validation, including testing destructive forces on printed elements, advanced digital twin computer simulations, non-destructive real world testing on the footbridge and the development of an advanced sensor network to monitor the bridge’s behaviour over its life. 

“A 3D printed steel bridge in Amsterdam is large and strong enough to handle pedestrian traffic has never been constructed before. We have tested and simulated the structure and its components throughout the printing process and upon its completion, and it’s fantastic to see it finally open to the public.” 

– Imperial co-contributor Professor Leroy Gardner of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

“We look forward to continuing this work as the project transitions from underpinning research to investigating the long-term behaviour of metal printed structures. Research into this new technology for the construction industry has huge potential for the future, in terms of aesthetics and highly optimised and efficient design, with reduced material usage. It has been fascinating and we are delighted that the structure is now ready to be used.”

– Imperial co-contributor Dr Craig Buchanan, also of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering

The testing work was led by Professor Gardner and Dr Buchanan, supported by a team of undergraduate and postgraduate students, PhD candidates, post-doctoral researchers and laboratory technicians.

3D printed steel bridge
Above: MX3D 3D printed steel bridge is lowered over the canal/Image Source: Imperial College London

The bridge was installed over the Oudezijds Achterburgwal canal in Amsterdam’s Red Light District and was being unveiled by a robot on 15 July 2021.

The data captured from the bridge will be made available to other researchers worldwide who want to work with the Turing researchers in analysing the data. Now that the bridge is unveiled, the researchers will begin collecting data in real time to monitor how it behaves.

The team’s work was predominantly funded by The Alan Turing Institute, with additional funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, part of UK Research and Innovation


About Manufactur3D Magazine: Manufactur3D is an online magazine on 3D Printing. Visit our Global News page for more updates on Global 3D Printing News. To stay up-to-date about the latest happenings in the 3D printing world, like us on Facebook or follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.