Visual-of-canal1-1030x579The oldest of Amsterdam’s approximately 1,280 bridges in use dates back to 1648. The city is famous for its beautiful canals and waterways, and Dutch engineers have long made their names in constructing ways around the “Venice of the North.” Tourists are encouraged to visit one particular bridge on the Herengracht canal, from which they can see 15 bridges in one view. In addition to bridges, the Netherlands has been gaining fame across the board for its reputation in the global 3D printing arena.

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Joris Laarman in his Amsterdam design studio

Now, the two are being brought together in an amazing feat of engineering prowess as Heijmans, MX3D, and Joris Laarman Lab collaborate on a first-of-its-kind project: a 3D printed steel pedestrian bridge that will span one of Amsterdam’s historic canals.

“We came to the conclusion that a bridge over the old canals of Amsterdam would be a fantastic metaphor for connecting the technology of the future with the city’s historic past, in a way which would reveal the best aspects of both worlds,” said Joris Laarman, who is designing the bridge. “I strongly believe in the future of digital manufacturing and local production – it’s a ‘new form of craftsmanship’. This bridge can show how 3D printing has finally entered the world of large-scale functional objects and sustainable materials, while enabling unrivalled freedom of design.”

about-3-1030x579The ambitious project centers on startup MX3D’s technology, which uses 6-axis robotic machines to create structures from steel literally in mid-air. Plans for building the bridge involve using two (or more) of these machines to effectively begin construction on either bank of the canal and build toward one another, meeting in the middle.

While plans for the bridge’s location have not yet been made public, MX3D will, along with the city of Amsterdam, soon make this announcement. A visitor center will also be open to the public with extensive information available, starting in September.

“What distinguishes our technology from traditional 3D printing methods is that we work according to the ‘Printing Outside the Box’ principle,” said MX3D CTO Tim Geurtjens. “By printing with 6-axis industrial robots, we are no longer limited to a square box in which everything happens. Printing a functional, life-size bridge is of course the ideal way to showcase the endless possibilities of this technique.”

bridge-under-1500x630For its part, Heijmans says, it will “contribute its knowledge of and experience in construction and technology to print the bridge.” Among other supporters in this project are Autodesk, whose technology Laarman has been using in the design process, as well as sponsors including ABB, Air Liquide, Delcam, Lenovo, and Within, and public partners Amsterdam City Council, AMS, and TU Delft.

Have you heard of other large-scale, usable construction projects going up around the world that rely on 3D printing technology? Let us know about them in the 3D Printed Pedestrian Bridge in Amsterdam forum thread over at 3DPB.com. Check out a video detailing the innovative project, as well as more renderings and photos, below.

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