It used to be that 3D-printed bridges were a technological pipe dream. Now they’re a reality. A new one in Shanghai was recently installed, and it claims to hold the title for the world’s largest 3D-printed concrete bridge—for now.
Unlike Joris Laarman’s ornate steel crossing, Shanghai’s 86-foot-long bridge is made from printed composite concrete. Led by Tsinghua University School of Architecture professor Xu Weiguo, the team from the school’s Zoina Land Joint Research Center for Digital Architecture (JCDA), designed the structure, which curves upward like a deep frown over a small canal in the Shanghai’s Baoshan District.
Before printing the bridge, the research team modeled it in software to find the optimal shape for supporting the weight of pedestrians. The swooping form was then printed in parts by two robotic arms over the course of 450 hours.
Though it was printed by robots, the bridge has soft details including ribbon like handrails and a patterned pavement filled with white stones. Naturally, because this is part of Shanghai’s “smart city” concept, the design is embedded with sensors that are able to measure stress in real-time, which will provide the research team with valuable data on how the structure is performing.