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Dutch company MX3D has completed the world’s first 3D printed steel bridge. The bridge is the company’s most ambitious undertaking to date. It will be installed in the city’s famous red light district, on the Oudezijds Achterburgwal canal. Currently, the cost of manufacturing a steel bridge using 3D printing is not low, but it should become a trend in the future.

The bridge, which is 40 meters long, was 3D printed at one of MX3D’s facilities outside Amsterdam before being shipped to the main workshop in the north of the city. The initial plan for the project was to 3D print the entire bridge in mid-air using a custom robotic 3D printing arm suspended over the canal, gradually building support structures underneath and moving them. Although the possibility was exciting, the project was ultimately abandoned due to concerns about the environment and pedestrian interference. This groundbreaking 3D printed bridge project had some hiccups and delays, but is now complete.

3D printing isn’t the only cutting-edge technology in this remarkable new project. To ensure the safety and optimal performance of this and other bridges, the 3D printed steel structure will be equipped with an array of sensors that will relay vital information to designers and engineers. This “smart” bridge will monitor its own health, recording the number of people crossing it and their speed, and measuring things like weight distribution and air quality. A digital bridge model will also be created based on the data collected, allowing future designs to be compared and adjusted accordingly.

In addition to being a one-of-a-kind project, the aesthetics of the bridge are also relatively unique. Its design is organic and fabric-like, with many curves, and the bridge’s surface was not post-surface treated after construction. This means that the layer-by-layer build-up of 3D printed steel is clearly visible.

“If you saw this bridge in our workshop now, it would be strange,” Raman told Gizmodo. “It’s a bit like something out of a science fiction novel because it looks so different from everything else around it. We work in a highly industrial shipyard and everything is geometric, but this bridge doesn’t have a straight line.”

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