Amsterdam’s robot printed steel bridge, to be installed in the city’s Red Light District upon completion, is a 12-metre long design masterpiece with curved, raw steel balustrades that belie its high-tech origins.
The award-winning design, a collaboration between Dutch technology startup MX3D and designers Joris Laarman Lab, is the culmination of a long-running dream that welds traditional steelwork and advanced digital modelling into a tangible reality.
The pedestrian bridge, which will be installed on the Oudezijds Achterburgwal, offers a glimpse of what this state-of-the-art robotic welding technology could offer our cities in the near future. With Arup involved as lead structural engineer, MX3D created intelligent software that transforms welding machines into 3-D robotic printers to produce a fully functional steel bridge.
4,500kg of stainless steel
Designed by humans, printed by robots
3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, is a novel method of manufacturing parts directly from a digital model by building layer after layer of a material. This new, high-precision technique provides opportunities and architectural freedom to designers and engineers alike, while potentially reducing the amount of materials used and wasted.
Arup worked in close collaboration with Joris Laarman to come up with the design in 2016, with the team defining a testing sequence to support design by experiment and prove the structural capacity of the bridge. In addition, we are currently providing technical advice on site, supporting MX3D in the ongoing communications with the municipality, as well as coordinating with other technical partners.
The road to a final model
The project encountered several pivots. The initial design for the 12m bridge has changed significantly. As knowledge of the safety requirements, material properties and technical potential grew, a final model emerged in early 2017.
In March 2017, the printing and assembly of the large bridge parts began, with printing work completed in October 2018. The bridge will be equipped with a sensor network, allowing the partners to gather data which will be used to build a Digital Twin monitoring the health of the bridge. This digital twin will be used to track performance under different environmental conditions and under changing dynamic loads, enabling the development of a data-centric design language.
The design was by far one of the most challenging tasks of the MX3D bridge project. We chose to work with Arup, as their experience with innovative projects and generative design were crucial to the project. Our collaboration became even stronger than we expected. Now Arup plays a key role in the co-development of the design method for our metal 3D printing technique ” Gijs van der Velden CEO of MX3D
To bring the project to life, MX3D has set up an innovative collaboration between a large group of partners marrying expertise across disciplines including software, hardware, construction and welding. These include Autodesk, ArcelorMittal, Arup, Force Technology, Imperial College London, Air Liquide, ABB Robotics, Heijmans, Lenovo and Lloyds Register Foundation. Among the public partners are TU Delft, AMS Institute (Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Studies) and the Municipality of Amsterdam. On the sponsoring side are STV, Oerlikon, FARO and Plymovent, while the Visitor Center is supported by the VSB Fund.
MX3D’s Visitor Center is currently open, offering a great opportunity for those keen to discover more about the steel printing process.
STARTS Prize 2018, awarded by the European Commission
Dutch Design Awards 2018