A SMART 3D-PRINTED BRIDGE
MX3D kicked off this project in 2015 when it proposed printing a metal bridge with its innovative large-scale, robotic 3D printing technology. The company’s technology uses welding robots to build up metal objects layer by layer. The technology allows for high material efficiency and increased form liberty in the construction of large metal structures. The bridge is designed by Joris Laarman Lab.
Equipped with a state-of-the-art sensor network, the MX3D Bridge is also an intelligent piece of infrastructure, able to make sense of its environment and own state. This ‘Smart Bridge’ is a groundbreaking research project that allows the City of Amsterdam to analyze pedestrian and crowd behavior.
In a wider sense this project allows for exploring the role of IoT systems in our built environment. In concert with academic and industry researchers, the City will investigate questions regarding open data, data ethics, citizen ownership and the impact of tourism.
Autodesk researchers created bespoke software to enable real-time collection and visualization from the bridge’s sophisticated sensor network. Structural measurements such as strain, rotation, load, displacement and vibration, and environmental factors such as air quality, temperature, and crowd behavior are fed to the bridge’s ‘‘digital twin’’, allowing researchers to measure the bridge’s health in real time and to monitor how it changes over its lifespan. This data will also be used to “teach” the bridge to understand how many people are crossing it and how quickly.
The sensors are located in chambers under the bridge, as well as in the handrails and curls. Additional sensors are installed near the bridge. By combining the data from these many different sensors, the bridge’s response to its users and its environment can be understood. The ultimate goal is to predict the behaviour of the bridge and of the material from which it is built, enabling further optimization of this novel manufacturing technique.
The raw data from the many sensors is collected on computers located near the bridge. There it is pre-processed—most importantly by “skeletonizing” the images of people collected by the bridge cameras to ensure anonymity—before being sent to a secure cloud environment managed by The Alan Turing Institute. Access to these machines and the data on them is tightly controlled, and the data itself is governed by an agreement between the City of Amsterdam and the project research partners.
The Smart Bridge project is a collaboration between the City of Amsterdam, MX3D, and the consortium of researchers who developed and built the bridge’s sensor network and digital twin. This consortium is made up of an interdisciplinary team of data science and artificial intelligence experts, materials scientists, smart city researchers, and data ethicists from these companies and research institutions:
The Alan Turing Institute is the UK’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence. The Institute is named in honour of Alan Turing, whose pioneering work in theoretical and applied mathematics, engineering and computing is considered to have laid the foundations for modern-day data science and AI. The Institute’s goals are to undertake world-class research in data science and AI, apply its research to real-world problems, drive economic impact and societal good, lead the training of a new generation of scientists, and shape the public conversation around data.
The Alan Turing Institute will use the collected data to create a digital twin for the bridge (more info). This twin can be used to validate new designs for infrastructure created by robotic additive manufacturing. By doing this, the future of digital manufacturing will be explored and new techniques will be used to improve the process.
The mission of AMS Institute is “to (re) invent a more prosperous city: sustainable, resilient and just”. To this end, the institute develops (technological) knowledge in research projects, educates students and professionals and encourages innovation and entrepreneurship. AMS Institute organises research and innovation in close collaboration with academic partners, the city of Amsterdam and societal and industry partners.
At MX3D designers, engineers and other scientists intensively collaborated in the AMS-3D Building FieldLab, to develop new expertise and experiment with digital construction and the use of robotics, particularly for infrastructure projects. The lab is a centre for expertise and a platform for collaboration between the government, the business community and knowledge institutions. With an amazing innovative 3D printed bridge as a result.
Autodesk makes software for people who make things. For the MX3D bridge, research software prototypes from Autodesk serve as the primary database capturing readings from the bridge’s sensor network and help to visualize that data. Together, these capabilities enable the bridge’s “digital twin,” a real-time virtual representation that is used to monitor the bridge’s health and performance over time.
The aim of the BRIDE project is to explore the role of smart public infrastructure in making and re-making of public space. The partners of the BRIDE project originate from the different instances; University of Twente, TU Delft, MX3D and the AMS Institute. They will search for new insights in: how designers, technologists, and citizens can utilize IoT technologies for designing urban space from the intersection of people, places, activities and technology, not merely from the presence of cutting-edge technology.
Construction Management and Engineering (CME) group of University of Twente took a leading role in the design and realization of the permanent sensor network on the 3D printed bridge. CME group hosted the bridge for nearly a year on the UT premise where team members worked very closely with other partners to design and install around 100 sensors on the bridge. The team also developed strategies for the ruggedization of the sensor network and collaborated with MX3D to develop a rugged protection for the sensor network. CME, in particular, and UT, in general, perceived the project as a unique opportunity to bring research to real life and work at the intersection of high-tech and human touch, i.e., UT’s motto. The core CME group consisted of Prof. Andre Doree, Dr. Faridaddin Vahdatikhaki, and Dr. Roland Kromanis.
Amsterdam is a city that was established not for nobility, but for merchants, traders and entrepreneurs. The city has always opened its doors to a diverse range of people, creating a melting pot of ideas, allowing the spirit of curiosity and innovation to flourish. Here they can experiment with new products and services and rapidly make their ideas a reality. However, innovation also requires collaboration, and Amsterdam offers a unique blend of knowledge institutes, corporate businesses, NGOs, and Amsterdam people who can partner with each other. That is why we are proud that Amsterdam has been named the European Capital of Innovation for 2017. To honour this recognition, the MX3D printed bridge will tangibly represent the innovative spirit that has always been cultivated in the historic centre of Amsterdam.
MX3D bridge is designed by Joris Laarman Lab. Over the years the work done by Joris Laarman Lab has become ever more influenced by technology. They wanted to print large-scale objects that could be used effectively. And it was clear that it would only be able to grow properly if it could stand on its own as an independent company. This led to MX3D.
The team was brainstorming about what the ultimate poster project would be for showcasing all of the facets of our technology. They came to the conclusion that a bridge over one of the old canals in Amsterdam would be a fantastic metaphor for connecting the technology of the future with the city’s past, in a way that would reveal the best aspects of both worlds.
After a challenging process of engineering, designing, re-engineering, re-designing, discovering the world behind permits, safety measures, canal wall renovation, programming, fundraising, test printing, and re-programming, the actual printing and placement of the bridge has finally happend!
The Dutch company MX3D develops robotic metal 3D print technology. Their intelligent proprietary software MetalXL turns an off-the-shelf robotic arm and a welding machine into an industrial powerhouse. In collaboration with Autodesk, TU Delft, ArcelorMittal, ABB, Lenovo, Arup, and Air Liquide, MX3D has become a technology provider for several industrial parties that are using the technology for large scale metal printing of key applications.