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Alan Turing Institute to turn the world’s first 3D printed steel bridge into a ‘living laboratory’ for research

A research team from The Alan Turing Institute are partnering with MX3D, a 3D printing company, to measure, monitor and analyse the performance of the world’s largest 3D printed metal structure: a 12 metre-long stainless steel bridge due to be installed across a canal in Amsterdam in 2018.

Design of the 3D printed steel bridge, by Joris Laarman Lab. The bridge will be 3D printed by robotic machinery.

A vast sensor network will be designed and installed on the bridge by a team of structural engineers, mathematicians, computer scientists and statisticians working in The Alan Turing Institute-Lloyd’s Register Foundation programme in data-centric engineering. The sensors will collect data on structural measurements such as strain, displacement and vibration and measure environmental factors such as air quality and temperature, enabling engineers to measure the bridge’s health in real time and monitor how it changes over its lifespan.

The MX3D bridge digital twin model developed by the Steel Structures research group in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London.

The data from the sensors will be inputted into a ‘digital twin’ of the bridge, a living computer model which will imitate the physical bridge with growing accuracy in real time as the data comes in. The performance and behaviour of the physical bridge can be tested against its digital twin, which will provide valuable insights to inform designs for future 3D printed metallic structures. It will also enable the current 3D bridge to be modified to suit any required changes in use, ensuring it is safe and secure for pedestrians.

Scientists involved in the project from Imperial College London will also work with MX3D to undertake material testing on the 3D printed steel, to anticipate the impact of pedestrian or cycling traffic over the bridge and inform its design.

The bridge will be installed across a canal in a busy area of Amsterdam city centre in late 2018, and data will be captured by the team over the length of the project.

Image by Olivier-de-Gruijter.

Other partners on the project include software engineers Autodesk and The Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions who will explore new ways to use and connect the bridge data with other data streams in the city. The build of the bridge is supported by the Lloyd’s Register Foundation.

Professor Mark Girolami, Director of the Turing-Lloyd’s Register Foundation Programme for Data-Centric Engineering, commented:

“The 3D bridge being installed by the MX3D team next year will be a world first in engineering. This data-centric, multidisciplinary approach to capturing the bridge’s data will also mark a step-change in the way bridges are designed, constructed, and managed, generating valuable insights for the next generation of bridges and other major public structures.

It is a powerful embodiment of what data-centric engineering can deliver as a discipline, and I look forward to seeing the bridge in action from summer next year.”

Gijs van der Velden, COO of MX3D, said:

“The MX3D technique offers engineers the freedom of working with metals in an entirely new way. The Alan Turing Institute’s digital twin of the bridge will help with the creation of a new design language. We hope that this data centric engineering method will speed up the introduction of this exciting new production technique into the construction market.”

Open call

The data captured from the bridge will be made open for research, and MX3D have launched an open call (closing February 2018) seeking creative and innovative ideas that will make use of the collected data. Find out more. 

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For more information please contact:

Sophie McIvor

Head of Communications

smcivor@turing.ac.uk

(0)20 3862 3334 / (0)79 6147 9846

About MX3D

MX3D is a company based in Amsterdam. Founded in 2014 , MX3D has researched and developed groundbreaking 3D printing technology. It has designed, produced, and distributed many custom 3D prints for variable uses such as the steel bridge.

About Autodesk

Autodesk makes software for people who make things. Its role in this project is to help provide the bridge with a nervous system. This is achieved by supplying the partners with the modeling and simulation software required to design the sensor network. Additionally, Autodesk will host all data collection, storage, and processing as needed to support the digital twin model and related machine learning development.

About The Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions

AMS is a scientific institute in Amsterdam which aims to find solutions to the complex challenges Amsterdam is facing. For this project, AMS will establish a connection between other data sets in the Amsterdam Metropolitan region to understand correlations between various events across the city.

About the Lloyd’s Register Foundation

The Lloyd’s Register Foundation is a UK charity which supports the research and development of ideas that can benefit our society by reducing the safety risks of critical infrastructures. The Foundation is partnering with The Alan Turing Institute on a major programme in data-centric engineering.