As more people become familiar with 3D printing and the ways additive manufacturing can change how things are made, new ideas and applications continue to emerge. While printing toys and cell phone cases can be fun, these are not world-changing applications. A team in Amsterdam, Netherlands MX3D, is preparing to change the world by printing it a new bridge.
The MX3D team has perfected a process of 3D printing using ABB robot arms to guide MIG welder arms as they deposit molten steel. This process allows them to make tubes that are printed into strong and capable structures. While this is not the first time we have heard of MIG welders being used for 3D printing, it is one of the first practical applications that have been put forth.
The design for the bridge was computer generated using new software being created by Autodesk. The software will use a genetic algorithm approach to find the most optimal structure, based on the desired size and shape of the bridge. This same kind of design methodology is being implemented to design lighter and stronger parts for aircraft.
The two robot arms will build a foot bridge across one of the canals of Amsterdam. The arms will not only be used to operate the welders printing the bridge, but will also be used to pull themselves along the bridge so they can reach further as the structure is being built. If this system works, it will be a fantastic example of the possibilities of autonomous construction projects using robots.
The exact location in Amsterdam of the bridge has not been chosen yet, and printing has not begun yet. We will check back in with the team in September when the process is scheduled to begin, and hopefully shortly thereafter we can share with you photos of the completed bridge.