World’s first 3D-printed reinforced concrete bridge opens in Netherlands

Tuesday 17 October saw the inauguration of the world’s first 3D-printed reinforced, pre-stressed concrete cycle bridge, which forms part of a new road around the village of Gemert, in the Netherlands.

3D-printed bridge
The cycle bridge in Gemert was inaugurated on 17 October 2017.
Image credit: studio040nl

Although the Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) unveiled the world’s first 3D-printed concrete bridge in December 2016, the pedestrian bridge, located in a park in central Madrid, is constructed out of a fused concrete powder micro-reinforced with thermoplastic polypropylene.

The 800-layer cycle bridge, however, is made of pre-stressed concrete reinforced with a steel cable (the equivalent of the reinforcement mesh used in conventional concrete), and took a team of engineers about three months to build, starting in June.

Intended primarily for cyclists, the bridge spans a water-filled ditch to connect two roads. According to the designers, it can support loads of up to five tonnes in safety testing, done in conjunction with the BAM Infra construction company, and is expected to last for at least 30 years.

According to the Eindhoven University of Technology, the cycle bridge is the first civil infrastructure project to be realized with 3D-concrete printing. The bridge is 8m long (clear span 6.5m) and 3.5m wide.

“The bridge is not very big, but it was rolled out by a printer which makes it unique,” Theo Salet, professor of concrete construction at the Eindhoven University of Technology, told Dutch broadcaster NOS. With the knowledge gained in this project, the researchers are now able to design even larger printed concrete structures.

The bridge’s elements were printed at the Eindhoven University of Technology, which has a large concrete printer for R&D purposes, and the six sections were assembled on site.

“We are looking to the future,” says Marinus Schimmel, head of BAM. He adds that 3D printing means less waste and fewer scarce resources required. The technology also results in lower CO2 emissions, less time required and lower costs.

Another benefit lies in the freedom of form: unlike conventional concrete shapes, which tend to be unwieldy due to formwork, the print can make any desired shape. The realisation speed is also much higher due to the lack of formwork and the fact that reinforcement mesh does not have to be put in place separately. Overall, the researchers think the realisation will eventually be roughly three times faster than conventional concrete techniques.

The Netherlands is one of the countries taking a lead in the cutting-edge technology, using computers and robotics to construct objects and structures from scratch without using traditional manpower.

A Dutch start-up called MX3D has begun printing a stainless-steel bridge using an innovative robotic 3D-printing technology that allows structures to be created on-site, in mid-air. A third of the bridge is already completed, and the aim is to finish printing by March and lay the bridge over an Amsterdam canal in June.

Producing the world’s first 3D-printed bridge with robots ‘is only the beginning’ – Joris Laarman

The technology that startup MX3D is developing to 3D print a steel bridge in Amsterdam could be used to produce endless different structures, says Dutch designer Joris Laarman.

Video credit: Dezeen.


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