Since last summer researchers from The Alan Turing Institute-Lloyd’s Register Foundation programme in data-centric engineering have collaborated with MX3D, an Amsterdam-based start-up, on plans to design, build and install the world’s largest 3D printed structure – an 12 metre-long bridge – across a canal in Amsterdam.

This week the project has reached a major milestone with the 3D robotically printed span of the bridge complete and revealed to the public.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4&v=STAHy6hTP14

The role of the Turing in this innovative project has been to bring together a team of structural engineers, mathematicians, computer scientists and statisticians to undertake material testing on the 3D printed steel, and to build a vast sensor network on the bridge to monitor the bridge’s health during the tests and after its final placement.

Scientists from the Steel Structures Research Group at Imperial College London have led on the research to undertake structural testing on the 3D printed steel.

Commenting on the recent successful testing, Professor Leroy Gardner said:

“In the absence of structural design provisions for 3D printed steel, physical testing is an important part of ensuring the safety of the structure. The recent testing confirmed not only that the bridge could withstand the applied load, but also that the numerical simulation of the bridge developed by the Steel Structures Research Group provided an accurate representation of the behaviour observed in practice.”

Model showing stress analysis on the bridge (image from Arup)

Group Leader in the data-centric engineering programme Dr Craig Buchanan added: “With the 3D printing of the main structure now complete, we look forward to returning to Amsterdam and proving that the bridge can resist the full design loading it is anticipated to experience when opened to the public in 2019. ”

 

The bridge has been 3D printed using robotic technology. Image: Olivier de Gruijter

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

“This project represents a world-first in engineering and we are delighted to play a role in ensuring the bridge’s success. This recent load testing undertaken by the team at Imperial is a major milestone for celebration.

“A crucial next step in the project will be developing the sensor network which enables engineers to measure the bridge’s health in real time and monitor how it changes over its lifespan.

“This ‘digital twin’ of the bridge will ensure it remains safe to cross in all conditions, and will provide valuable insights to inform designs for future 3D printed metallic structures.”

MX3D anticipate that the bridge will be installed before the end of 2019.

For more information and images of the bridge being built, visit www.mx3d.com.

For more information about data-centric engineering, visit turing.ac.uk/data-centric-engineering.

For more information about the Steel Structures Research Group at Imperial College London, visit www.imperial.ac.uk/steel-structures