The civil engineering world is always looking to evolve. New materials, construction methods and innovations are always being trialled and tested, and in July of this year, a world first was achieved.
Ladies and Gentlemen…
Reaching across the Oudezijds Achterburgwal canal in Amsterdam, a 12-metre-long 3D-printed steel bridge was unveiled.
Designed by Imperial College London and The Alan Turing Institute, it was then built over the course of four years by Dutch engineering company MX3D.
Bridging the Gap to the Future
The first of its kind, the innovation doesn’t stop at the production method. Built into the bridge is a system of sensors that will track and record how pedestrians use the bridge.
This data will then be used to produce a digital version of the bridge that researchers at Imperial College London will analyse to assess its condition in real time and evaluate how metal printed constructions cope with long-term use.
The initial work was undertaken by Professor Leroy Gardner and Dr Craig Buchanan of Imperial College London’s Civil and Environmental Engineering department in collaboration with undergraduate and postgraduate students, PhD candidates, post-doctoral researchers, and laboratory technicians.
A Project Years in the Making
Originally announced in 2015, the 6-tonne bridge was constructed in just six months, by using 4 robots and a process called wire arc additive manufacturing. It will remain in place for two years, while the original footbridge receives repairs.
While this is the first steel 3D-printed bridge, a similar structure using unreinforced concrete was produced, and is now open to pedestrians, in Venice.
It may not be too long until these production methods are used more widely, as the technology evolves and the success of projects like the above gain more attention.
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While we’ve yet to work with a 3D-printed steel bridge, we are experts in all things concrete.
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