3D Printing Robot Bridge Builder

By Phill Powell

Robots do amazing things. Now a Dutch research engineering firm called MX3D has developed a robot that can 3D print an entire bridge from steel.

mx3d_robot_bridge_builder
Developed with the help of the University of Delft and Autodesk’s Applied Research Labs, the MX3D is a futuristic bridge-builder.

Robotic Acrobatics
And it’s not just what this robot can do, but how it does it. The MX3D robot works ahead of itself, like a railroad machine that lays crossties as it moves.

The robot also has characteristics of a spider, because it actually “spins” the steel that’s used for the construction. How? The robot creates molten steel which is used to print a desired shape. The robot also clings at the site it’s working, producing a bridge (like a spider spins a web) while hanging in mid-air.

The bridge designs created by the robot are very intricate. A complex pattern of steel is produced just as easily as it would create a basic design.

robot_printed_bridge_Amsterdam
MX3D has staked the company’s reputation on the bridge-building capabilities of the MX3D six-axis robot.

Robots Rise to the Challenge
In 2017, the robot will take on its greatest challenge: 3D printing a bridge over one of Amsterdam’s famous canals. The lead engineer will simply press a button that engages the system, and then walk away. Think of it, a robot that 3D prints a bridge. Wouldn’t you love to build that in robotics camp?

If all goes according to plan, the robot will weave in 60 days a sturdy, 24-feet steel bridge that can withstand the foot traffic of tourists.

The idea to build a bridge in Amsterdam, a city known for its canals, was a no-brainer. Says lead engineer Joris Laarman, “We decided that a bridge over an old city canal was a pretty good choice.” If successful, the feat will showcase robotics engineering in an amazingly new way.

robot_printed_bridge_river
A new revolution in industrial design: on-site manufacturing of heavy construction, like bridges.

A 3D Printed Future
When the MX3D bridge project is complete, it will be the world’s first robot-built, 3D-printed bridge. MX3D consulted with the University of Delft as well as Autodesk’s Applied Research Labs for the project.

Autodesk 3D modeling software like 123D Design is used in Digital Media Academy’s 3D printing camp, where teens age 12 to 17 get hands-on experience with today’s hottest and coolest technology.