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Famous Amsterdam canal gets a 3D-printed smart bridge

Amsterdam’s oldest neighborhood is getting a high-tech upgrade thanks to 3D-printing company MX3D and design firm Joris Laarman Lab. The team recently unveiled a stainless steel, 3D-printed smart bridge that will be placed over one of the city’s historic bridges in the Red Light District. The bridge will be equipped with digital technology to analyze crowd behavior.

The stainless steel bridge has the capacity to hold a minimum of 19.5 tons, more than even what it was designed for. According to MX3D’s CEO, the success of the bridge project marks only the beginning for the company’s metal-printing technology.

“This robotic technology finally allows larger optimized designs to be 3D printed in metal,” said Gijs van der Velden, CEO and co-founder of MX3D. “This causes significant weight reduction and reduced impact for parts manufactured in the tooling, oil & gas and construction industries.” The project took four robots and over 6,000 kilograms of stainless steel to complete, but the most innovative aspect, arguably, comes in the form of the bridge’s smart sensors.

Powered by structural measurements like strain, rotation, load, displacement and vibration, the bridge’s sensors collect data in real time. The accurate computer model helps engineers to not only keep tabs on the bridge’s overall health (for example, how it changes over its lifespan) but also better understand elements like overtourism, air quality and temperature.

There’s an artificial intelligence component to it as well, because the sensor data can also be used to “teach” the bridge to essentially understand what is happening to it. The first step is to teach the bridge how to count how many people are crossing it and how quickly.

“Evolution is a truly wonderful process that we try to harness in our work. Endlessly trying, refining, improving until slowly, something emerges that is so ingenious it looks like magic if you don’t know what went on before,” said Joris Laarman, owner of Joris Laarman Lab. “In our work, we try to capture some of that magic. Using emerging technology to develop objects and a visual language of the future that is informed by logic, we aim to make small leaps in that evolutionary process.”




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