A company is 3D printing a bridge across an Amsterdam canal

15 Jun 2015

MX3D has created a 3D printer that supports itself on its own constructions, with its “ultimate test” the live construction of a bridge across a canal in Amsterdam.

The technology that the company has devised is pretty cool, using the metal structures that it builds to both support and position itself to continue generating designs.

“At first they were little worm-like blobs. It was hard to see, but we saw a universe of possibilities,” said the company of how its 3D printing went from clumsy to clever after endless hours of testing.

Many problems cropped up along the way. A welding machine exploded, nozzles got stuck and robots got disorientated on unsecured structures.

“But then they became long lines, complex curves and double-curved oval tubes. It was like drawing in midair.”

3D printing a bridge

Of course, 3D printing a bridge needs a designer, in this case Joris Laarman, partnering MX3D, design software company Autodesk, construction company Heijmans and many others on the whole project.

“What distinguishes our technology from traditional 3D printing methods is that we work according to the ‘printing outside the box’ principle,” said Tim Geurtjens, CTO of MX3D.

“By printing with six-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.”

It’s all kicking off in September this year, with the exact location of the bridge to be announced soon.

“I strongly believe in the future of digital production and local production, in ‘the new craft’,” said Laarman.

“This bridge will show how 3D printing finally enters the world of large-scale, functional objects and sustainable materials while allowing unprecedented freedom of form.”

Amsterdam image, via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic