3D printing is taking place on an increasingly larger scale than the previously common desktop sizes. Without the restrictions of a bed over which to extrude material, objects can be produced on a mobile platform. It is now possible to print infrastructure! Joris Laarman from the Netherlands has designed a bridge measuring 8 metres in length and 4 metres across to stretch over an Amsterdam canal. I don’t know about the maximum load but suppose it must be strong enough to support the weight of at least 6 or 7 adults.
The 3D printers/constructors are robot and welding machine hybrids that can extrude metal, rather than conventional plastics. For this bridge, the first of its kind, steel will be used. I wonder how it will stand up to moisture in the air and the thin material not rust or weaken within 10 years. I’m sure Laarman’s design company, MX3D, has looked into this aspect already, as with the extensive research that must have gone into developing the smart software to manipulate welders with amazing dexterity.
Digital manufacturing is evolving in so many ways. In the Netherlands, MX3D has enabled making on 6 axes using parametric modelling. Originally, the bridge was intended to be constructed on-site but unsurprisingly, it was deemed too dangerous. Instead, the printing is to take place in an old shipbuilding hangar starting in summer 2016. It’s using an innovative and still unpredictable method of manufacture and will therefore only be ready some time after 2017.
Dragon Bench by Joris Laarman uses the same manufacturing process to extrude metal. Designs on a computer screen are made into 3-dimensional forms.