MX3D is a company that designs and develops robotic additive manufacturing technology — think 3D printers, only the printheads are giant robotic arms.
In June 2015, the team at MX3D was looking for a project that would showcase their technology, something that would really turn some heads. They were actually at an airport, on their way to a meeting with potential sponsor Autodesk when they came up with the idea to build a 3D-printed bridge. The idea was that robots would actually build the bridge in place, so each robot would start on opposing sides of the river, or crevasse, and meet each other in the middle. Needless to say, it was enough for Autodesk to sign on, as well as a dozen other collaborators.
Over the last three years, the scope of the project has changed — it turns out that the original plan was a bit too ambitious. Maybe it was because $300,000 worth of robots would literally be out on a limb (but couldn't they have some sort of robot fall protection to protect the investment?). The move to a more controlled environment was likely because of potentially curious pedestrians and unpredictable weather.
Either way, the team has finally completed the 40-foot span of the bridge in a facility in Amsterdam. The bridge is 12.5 meters (41 feet) long, and 6.3 meters (20.7 feet) wide, and it took four robots and six months of printing to complete the futuristic structure. MX3D used about 4,500 kg (9,920 lbs) of steel and 1,100 km (683.5 miles) of wire.
Next, the company is working on structural tests, finishing the steel deck, adding a protective clear coat, and finalizing sensor design. The bridge is actually a smart bridge in that it will have a full suite of sensors that will measure strain, displacement, temperature, and humidity. As you can imagine, experimental bridge techniques might be under more scrutiny after the disaster in Florida. The bridge is on track to be installed in its final location in Amsterdam's red-light district sometime in 2019.