AMSTERDAM _ At first blush, the 12m. pedestrian bridge opening soon on an Amsterdam canal looks like a ho-hum thing. But in a city of 1,200 bridges and 100 kms. (62 miles) of waterways, it is a milestone, says Lloyds Register, the maritime classification organization that prizes research into structural integrity.
That brings us to the world’s first 3D-printed steel bridge opening in the heart of the Dutch capital later this year.
MX3D, a local start-up, printed the steel bridge. It combined industrial robots with clever software to create the large 3D structure. The bridge, with its strong, complex and graceful printed metal structure, showcases what its multi-axis 3D-printing technology can do. This has not been wasted on Lloyds Register Foundation, a charity with a mission of enhancing safety and public education, that has awarded grant to MX3D.
“Using 3D-printing in this way for the first time is not without risks,” Dr Jan Przydatek, Associate Director of Programmes at Lloyd’s Register Foundation, tells Dutch Yacht Building. “Through this project we will be able to demonstrate that the bridge is safe for use, create knowledge for better designs in the future and make data openly available for others to innovate.”
The bridge will be a “living laboratory.” A sensor network will provide real-time information on its health. The sensors will collect structural measurements and information on the environment around the bridge, enabling artificial intelligence (AI) and engineers to monitor its status and ensure its safety.
“The bridge will inform us if there are any structural problems,” says Przydatek. A virtual representation, or ‘digital twin’, of the bridge will use the data providing an increasingly accurate model of the structure. The bridge offers one of the first opportunities to investigate and predict how 3D-printed structures behave under real-world conditions over an extended period.
In yacht and shipbuilding 3D-printing is attracting interest as the technology develops. “People are still trying to understand that technology,” says Przydatek. This is not just about how to manufacture 3D-printed parts, but also to understand how they will perform under real world conditions.