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World’s First Robotic 3D Printed Modified Plastic Footbridges on Display at Tongji University

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When we talk about 3D printed bridges, they’re usually made out of heavy construction materials, like concrete or steel. But recently, Tongji University’s College of Architecture and Urban Planning (CAUP) unveiled the first robotic 3D printed bridges, which were made using modified plastic. The two black footbridges, which span 4 meters and 11 meters, graced the entrance of the exhibition hall on campus for this year’s Digital FUTURE Shanghai Summer Workshop and Conference, which began on June 24th and ended on July 2nd.

This event definitely seems to breed 3D printing innovation: a team attending the workshop in 2015 developed a 6-axis robotic 3D printer that was inspired by spiderwebs, and the Silky Concrete project from Beijing’s Silk Project spatial lab was also a result of the workshop.

300 students applied to this year’s camp, which had a theme of “Visualization vs. Materialization,” and 146 were selected from multiple institutions, including UC Berkeley, Edinburgh University, Tsinghua University, and the University of London. It featured multiple 3D printers, five UAVs, a thermal imager, UWB indoor positioning equipment, two CNC machines, and eight robots. Activities included an open day tour, a construction work camp, and a forum on digital construction and graphic thinking, and ten speakers presented on a variety of topics, such as 3D printing, artificial intelligence, parametric design, and biomimetics.

In addition to CAUP, the event was hosted by the Shanghai Digital Fabrication Engineering Technology Center and the Tongji Architectural Design (Group) Co., Ltd. (TJAD). According to CAUP News, the goal of the event is to assemble the “most pioneering digital design & fabrication organizations and individual around the world.”

More and more, fabrication and automation are moving towards adopting the new approach of ‘digital material design,’ and the event opens up discussions on the opportunities and challenges “brought by the philosophical thinking based on materialism in the times of emerging CNC construction industry.”

The larger of the two 3D printed bridges was Tongji University’s latest exploration of 3D printing technology on a robotic platform, according to Shanghai Daily. While neither bridge is actually meant to be traversed, the 11 meter one can hold up to five adults at once, and the two bridges were definite highlights of the Digital FUTURE Shanghai exhibition, which is part of the workshop and conference.

According to Top News, “The robot platform provides a new possibility for the development and implementation of 3D printing technology, which makes the feasibility of applying 3D printing technology to the construction industry, both on a scale and a complex system. Based on the principle of traditional three-dimensional printing, the possibility and feasibility of three-dimensional printing of building scale are explored in combination with structural performance design. Using the robot three-dimensional printing to realize the batch production of custom unit, we complete two pieces by customizing the three-dimensional printing module masonry. Three-dimensional printing bridge, span of 4 meters and 11 meters, respectively, to verify the three-dimensional building products, structural stability and reliability.”

While the workshop and conference are over, the exhibition will stay up at Tongji University until September 30th. In addition to the two 3D printed modified plastic bridges, the exhibition includes 3D printed garments and a giant wooden pavilion made and assembled with robotic fabrication tools. Discuss in the 3D Printed Bridges forum at 3DPB.com.

[Sources/Images: CAUP News, Top News, Shanghai Daily]

 

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