It’s not often that a queen and a robot team up to unveil a new project. In the heart of Amsterdam’s seedy red light district, Her Majesty Queen Máxima of The Netherlands pressed a button that enabled a small robot to cut the ceremonial ribbon, opening up the world’s first 3D-printed steel pedestrian bridge to traffic. The new bridge, which spans a historic canal, will be in place for two years while the historic bridge is renovated.
Queen Máxima, dressed in an elegant shade of Holland’s orange national color, was there to highlight new Dutch design and technology. The 40-foot-long, 6-ton steel bridge was designed by Joris Laarman, a Dutch architect, and MX3D, a local robotics company, in partnership with Arup, the global engineering firm.
According to Dezeen, the bridge’s “curving S-shaped form and balustrades with lattice-style perforations” were designed with parametric modelling software. The steel bridge form was constructed using a 3D printing technique called “wire and arc additive manufacturing,” which combines robotics with welding, reported AP News.
In a local factory, custom robots with arms that can weld forged the structure, slowly building layer after layer. In an interview, Laarman said: “by adding small amounts of molten metal at a time, we are able to print lines in mid-air.”
The team claims that the approach is hyper-efficient because the form uses minimal materials. MX3D co-founder Gijs van der Velden told Dezeen that a robotic approach enables “significant weight reduction and reduced impact for parts manufactured in the tooling, oil, and gas and construction industries.” But another architect calculated that the stainless steel in the bridge includes at least 27.7 tons of embodied carbon.
The Alan Turing Institute and Arup incorporated a network of sensors that will collect data on its performance with changing environmental conditions and foot and bike traffic over the next two years. Researchers at the Imperial College of London hope to analyze the stream of data to create even more efficient structures.
Micha Mos, a city councillor in Amsterdam, told AP News the city hopes the new bridge will change the vibe in Amsterdam’s red light district. “This may attract a new kind of visitor, one who is more interested in architecture and design, which will help change the way the neighborhood is perceived.”
Also check out: In 2019, China claimed to build the world’s first 3D-printed concrete bridge. Hopefully, the next 3D designer will seek to build structures out of carbon-sequestering materials.