Amsterdam, October 2018 – Amsterdam based startup MX3D has finalised the world’s largest, single-span 3D-printed steel bridge. The completed bridge, the product of a huge number of industrial and academic collaborators, is currently being unveiled to the world at Dutch Design Week 2018 (20-28 October), ahead of its future installation over the Oudezijds Achterburgwal canal in Amsterdam.

 

In addition to its unique construction, the bridge is also a living laboratory for data scientists and is instrumented with an innovative sensor network. Everyone that walks, runs, or cycles over the bridge will generate data about the behaviour of the structure.

The Turing’s programme in data-centric engineering, funded by the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, in collaboration with researchers at a number of universities including Imperial College London, University of Cambridge, and Newcastle University, have been developing a ‘digital twin’ of the bridge to help analyse the sensor network data, as well as conducting extensive tests of the physical printed material and using statistical methodology to understand more about the material itself.

This work, in conjunction with the wider project’s many international partners, is providing insight not just into how this revolutionary new material and construction process behaves, but into the potential for infrastructure to act as living objects that do more for our cities.

An accelerometer (front) and an inclinometer (rear) installed as part of the sensor network for Dutch Design Week 2018. Photo by Imperial College London.
An accelerometer (front) and an inclinometer (rear) installed as part of the sensor network for Dutch Design Week 2018. Photo by Imperial College London.

Data obtained from the sensors visualise intelligence about bridge traffic, structural integrity, and the surrounding neighbourhood and environment. During Dutch Design Week, visitors are invited to walk over the bridge to generate the first dataset.

The work on this 3D printed bridge will contribute to the future of safe, efficient and data-driven engineering by monitoring the structure. The work is not just giving insights to designers, engineers and data scientists; with the bridge being placed in a real-world environment in Amsterdam the work is enabling civic interests too.

Liam Butler, from the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction, elaborates: “Thousands of people are going to cross this bridge an hour so the City of Amsterdam are interested at looking at things like foot traffic, C02 emissions, noise and decibel levels, and more.”

Craig Buchanan, Imperial College London, and his colleagues have also been working, as part of a larger team, to develop a long-term structural health monitoring network to ensure that the bridge remains safe during its lifetime. “One of the main benefits of the Turing has been to bring together and foster collaboration between academic fields and researchers that do not traditionally work together,” Buchanan reveals, “and these collaborations have undoubtedly led to a more successful project.”

Sticky dots, applied by hand, to the handrails of the MX3D Bridge to provide a contrast pattern for digital image correlation equipment to monitor the three-dimensional deformations during load testing by Arup, The Alan Turing Institute and Imperial College London. Photo by Imperial College London.
Sticky dots, applied by hand, to the handrails of the MX3D Bridge to provide a contrast pattern for digital image correlation equipment to monitor the three-dimensional deformations during load testing by Arup, The Alan Turing Institute and Imperial College London. Photo by Imperial College London.

The aim is to have the bridge installed in Amsterdam in 2019, where the focus of the project will move to real-time studying of the behaviour of the structure.

“3D printing is poised to become a major player in engineering, and we need to develop novel data-centric approaches for testing and monitoring to realise its full potential. When we couple 3D printing with digital twin technology, we can then accelerate the infrastructure design process, ensuring that we design optimal and efficient structures with respect to environmental impact, architectural freedom and manufacturing costs.”

Mark Girolami, Turing’s Programme Director for Data-Centric Engineering

Conclusion

Notes to Editors:

  1. Read the Turing’s impact story, 'Bridging the gap between physical and digital', to find out more about this collaboration and how this technology is changing the future of engineering and digital manufacturing.

  2. For videos, see MX3D Bridge YouTube, credit: Video by Anita Star.

  3. Photo gallery available upon request: Beth Wood, Press and Communications Manager, The Alan Turing Institute, [email protected]+44 (0)20 3862 3390.

  4. FACTSHEET

    Bridge location: Oudezijds Achterburgwal, at the crossing with the Stoofsteeg located in the Red Light District of Amsterdam
    Technology: MX3D, Proprietary Software
    Client: City of Amsterdam
    Designer: Joris Laarman Lab
    Lead structural engineer: Arup
    Material & structural analysis: Imperial College London
    Material expert: ArcelorMittal
    Research: AMS-3D Building Fieldlab, Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions
    Digital tools: Autodesk
    Digital twin: The Alan Turing Institute
    Sensor network design & install: Force Technology & Autodesk
    Scanning: Faro Technologies
    Construction expert: Heijmans & Mous
    Hardware, computing: Lenovo
    Hardware, robotics: ABB
    Hardware, sensor network: HBM
    Hardware, welding: Oerlikon
    Hardware, air cleaning: Plymovent
    Welding gas: Air Liquide
    Material: Stainless steel
    Length: 12.2 meter
    Width: 6.3 meter
    Height: 2.1 meter