The Dutch used an unexpected method to build an alien bridge

In 2013, when I watched the movie "Superman Steel Body" directed by Zach Schneider for the first time, I was immediately attracted by the Kryptonian architecture inside, which was full of irregular and distorted design elements. The harmonious and weird beauty is in sharp contrast with the common architectural designs on earth.

▲ Stills of "Superman Iron Man"

It is not easy to reproduce that form of architecture in reality.

And just this month, the world's first 3D printed steel pedestrian bridge was officially put into operation in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. This bridge is like a building from that movie, weird and beautiful.

This footbridge from the movie itself is very sci-fi

The project of this 3D printed steel bridge began in 2015. The original idea was to print a metal bridge with an innovative large-scale 3D printing robot, so MX3D, a 3D technology company focused on metal materials, began to design work.

In the initial prototype design, they originally envisioned using a welding machine to make both ends of the river bank by spot welding, and finally spliced ​​into a complete U-shaped bridge in the middle, similar to the feeling of plants gradually growing, just like this.

▲ From the game "Sticky World"

They have even made small test prototypes, which look crude, but are enough to support a person's weight, which looks interesting.

However, ARUP (Arup), as the chief structural engineering team of the project, abandoned this plan, and then gave a design plan to build a solid steel bridge body, using the 3D printed robotic arm produced by the ABB Group.

In this way, the shape of the bridge body is more beautiful, and there is enough space at the bottom of the bridge deck to put all kinds of sensors.

The bridge is 12.2 meters long, 6.3 meters wide, and weighs 4.5 tons . Many sensors are arranged at the bottom to collect various data when it is subjected to strain, rotation, load, displacement and vibration. These valuable data can help the future When building a larger-scale bridge structure, establish a force model to ensure that the structure is stable and reliable.

Not only that, they can also use these sensors to analyze the impact of different times and festivals on the flow of people in the area.

Because this part involves sensitive issues such as people’s privacy and the original installation location, the Oudezijds Achterburgwal canal in the center of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, is being renovated. This steel bridge has not been put into use since it was completed in 2018. It will be exhibited on other occasions and will not be transported to the intended location by ship until this year.

Finally, it was erected and fixed on the canal by hoisting. It is worth mentioning that next to the canal is the famous red light district.

3D printing can control any material

If you want to do well, you must sharpen your tools. MX3D has been in the field of metal 3D printing for a long time before building this steel bridge.

Entering the official website of MX3D, you can see their previous works. Since their birth in 2014, they have had their own masterpieces in software, heavy equipment, architecture, design and other fields. This time the steel bridge was officially put into operation, which is more like an investment promotion advertisement for MX3D.

However, MX3D was able to successfully build this steel bridge, and there are many heroes behind it: the 3D printing robot is from the Swiss ABB Group; the sensor network provider is Autodesk; the collected data is analyzed by the British Turing Institute; the manufacturing process It is the hardware equipment of Lenovo Group that is responsible for the calculation.

▲ Partners of MX3D

The joint efforts of many parties finally brought this "alien building" into reality. Is this the pinnacle of 3D printing technology? No, the future will never stop here.

Most people are relatively new to metal 3D printing, but this technology is not uncommon in many industrial fields.

As early as the 1980s, 3D printing technology was born. At that time, it had another name: Rapid Prototyping. As the name implies, it is fast. It is suitable for the small-scale experiment stage before mass production. The process produces almost no waste, which can save raw materials to the greatest extent.

3D printing can easily realize such a wild design, as long as it is handled properly, the strength will not be bad. It is the best proof that it is widely used in aviation and aerospace fields.

The large aircraft C919 independently researched and developed in China uses titanium alloy 3D printed parts for its nose and window frames , and its mechanical properties are significantly higher than the original castings.

The American "Perseverance" rover, which successfully landed on Mars in February this year, has a total of 11 metal parts made of 3D printing on its body.

▲ The front cover of PIXL is made by 3D printing

Many car manufacturers also choose to use metal 3D printing technology to manufacture crankshafts, suspensions, intake manifolds and even the entire roof, in order to reduce the weight of the car body, while improving the corrosion resistance and strength of these key components.

The latest work completed by MX3D this time is the closest the public is to metal 3D printing. Perhaps after this, this technology will become more popular.

The limelight is over, keep your feet on the ground

In addition to metal products, 3D printing is also commonly used in other fields, such as shoes and clothing , food , medical treatment , and even wooden homes . The saying that "everything can be 3D printed" has gradually become popular.

Although this technology has great prospects, it is far from reaching the stage of "flying into the homes of ordinary people". In the trend of 3D printing artificial meat that started in 2017, various players have also emerged: Redefine meat in Israel, Novameat in Spain, and Russia 3D Bioprinting Solutions and more.

▲ 3D printed steak of Redefine meat

However, they are all faced with problems such as poor taste, high cost, and low yield. Until they find the final way out, vegetable meat or 3D printed artificial meat is still a very niche product.

On the other side of the field of shoes and clothing, I have also tasted the sweetness of 3D printing. We saw New Balance, Adidas, Under Armour and other well-known brands fighting on 3D technology four years ago. Today, almost only Adidas is still updating the 4D series of shoes.

▲ Adidas' 4D midsole

Does this mean that 3D printing technology is cold? There is no need to be so pessimistic.

I asked friends who work in the battery field that this technology is not widely used on production lines, but when dealing with flexible production and customized small batch production, 3D printing has great advantages, fast update and low cost.

Another friend who works part-time GK parts (Garage Kit, uncoated resin mold parts) praised 3D printing.

He has a hobby of collecting figures, and slowly changed from simply collecting to making it by himself. Later, he found that other people also had similar needs, so he started to take some customized orders, and it was difficult to get a small amount.

▲ Picture courtesy of friends

And his work process, the first is to use 3D printing to make prototypes, and then turn the mold to start small batch production.

The popularity of 3D printing not only simplifies the difficulty of his work, but also reduces his time and labor costs, allowing him to maintain his main business and have the energy to turn his hobby into work.

From these examples, we can roughly summarize the characteristics of 3D printing technology: short, flat, fast, controllable, and suitable for flexible production . Because of this, there are not many application scenarios for this technology in mass production.

In this way, a large non-mass production process like MX3D steel bridge is the best destination for this technology.

And in the near future, we can clearly feel that the heat of 3D printing is fading. Few media have gathered to report on the scene of 3D printing. However, the emergence of this 3D printed steel bridge also allows us to see that the technology has improved in the industrial field. Mature application scenarios, new technologies entering the cooling-off period are slowly growing, and are waiting for the next qualitative leap.

Cover source: ArchDaily

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