3D printing is great for creating small things, like handheld figurines, but it’s also helping to develop and create really large objects as well, such as cars, and even houses built out of concrete. Concrete may not be the first material that comes to mind when you think about 3D printing, but it’s becoming widespread; it’s even being considered to 3D print an entire village! Yesterday in Spain, there was an inaugural ribbon-cutting ceremony for what is being called the first concrete large-scale 3D printed bridge in the world.
Other 3D printed bridges exist in the world; last year, we heard about a massive 3D printed steel bridge that was being worked on in Amsterdam. But as far as we can tell, this is the first bridge to be 3D printed using concrete. It is also being touted as possibly the first civil engineering work done in 3D printing of a real scale concrete structure that is open to the public. In a statement, city representatives claim that the opening of the bridge is a 3D printing milestone for the construction sector at an international level. I’m not positive if this is true or not, but I think we can all agree this is a pretty big engineering feat nonetheless.
The pedestrian footbridge, which is 12 meters long and almost two meters wide, was positioned across a small creek in the public Castilla La Mancha Park in Alcobendas, Madrid, using cranes. The architecture of the bridge was designed by Barcelona-based Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC), which we’ve written about before, and utilized the philosophy and techniques of biomimetic architecture, which attempts to create solutions that allow for sustainability in nature, which can save on resources, energy, and cost of the structure, as well as build elements that resemble the various forms of nature.
Global engineering firm Acciona, whose website states that they “aim to meet the needs of today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs,” was certainly on board with this specific type of architecture, and they took care of the actual 3D printing, which was completed in eight pieces.
City representatives said that the innovative structure and sustainable, versatile technology used meant that the installation of the bridge did not cost the city anything. According to a press release about the 3D printed bridge, there are several advantages to large-scale 3D printing in concrete, which include:
- Versatility in building structural elements freely, without using molds or formwork
- Flexibility and adaptability to any shape, geometry, and architectural design of great resistance
- Minimizing the amount of waste by recycling the raw material during the manufacturing
- Reduced resources and energy needed for constructing the concrete elements
Judging from the picture, it may be difficult to stroll across the bridge holding hands with your sweetheart, especially if someone else is headed in your direction from the other side of the bridge. But it is certainly something to behold. The city of Alcobendas is committed to innovation, and is one of the pioneer cities in the world for its use of large-scale 3D printing technology, which can obviously be used in many urban situations, from preserving historical and cultural heritage, to building and civil engineering. You can learn more about the bridge in the videos below (in Spanish):
Discuss in the 3D Printed Bridge forum at 3DPB.com.