After four years of work, the world’s first 3D-printed steel structure has been revealed in Amsterdam. The new 3D-printed steel footbridge was created with help from Imperial College London and was placed in the center of Amsterdam in a location dubbed a “living laboratory.” The bridge was unveiled for the first time this month by Her Majesty Queen Máxima of the Netherlands. The bridge features a network of sensors installed inside that will allow researchers at Imperial College London to measure, monitor, and analyze the performance of the bridge over time.
The structure is 12-meters long and will handle pedestrian foot traffic. Data collected using sensors allows engineers and researchers to measure the bridge’s health in real-time and monitor how it changes over its lifespan. Sensors will also help researchers understand how the public interacts with the 3D printed structure.
Researchers plan to take the data gathered by the sensors and put them into a digital clone of the bridge inside a computer simulation. The simulated bridge will be able to improve accuracy in real-time as more sensor data comes in. The goal is to use the data to help answer long-term behavioral questions concerning 3D-printed steel and to use the data in real-world settings for future similar construction projects.
It’s been a long process of getting the unique bridge from the concept stage to becoming a real-world object. Imperial College conducted research and validation on the underlying methods used in the project. Including testing destructive forces on printed elements, advanced digital twin computer simulations, non-destructive real-world testing on the footbridge, and development of an advanced sensor network to monitor the bridge over its life.
The project marks the first time a 3D-printed metal structure that is large enough and strong enough to handle pedestrian traffic has been made. Scientists are now looking forward to continuing work on the project as it moves from the research stage to investigation into its long-term behavior.