Throughout his career, Dutch designer Joris Laarman has pushed the boundaries of what’s possible with a 3D printer. Best known for his Bone Chair, Laarman is a pro experimenter with process and form.
Since 2015, Laarman has been working on his most ambitious project yet—a 40-foot 3D-printed steel bridge that will span an Amsterdam canal. Now, nearly four years after he started the project, the bridge is fully printed and ready to install.
Working with his 3D printing company, MX3D, Laarman and his team designed a six-axis robot capable of 3D printing a swooping load-bearing structure from molten steel. The bridge itself is an impressive feat of technology, starting with its complex form, which was printed in chunks before being welded together.
It’s also embedded with sensors that can collect data around the bridge’s health. In real time, the bridge can measure strain and vibration as well as the number of people who walk over it and how quickly. MX3D says it’s using this first bridge as a way to collect data that will inform future bridge designs. The team expects to install the bridge over the red light district’s Oudezijds Achterburgwal, currently undergoing renovations, by mid-2019.
The designers and engineers say the ultimate goal is to have robots that can someday autonomously build our infrastructure, tirelessly toiling away on site without the help of humans. But humans, don’t worry too much yet; like we’ve seen with many a robotic construction project, the robots still need our help—for now.