Autodesk teams with MX3D to create a functional 3D printed bridge in Amsterdam
3D printing is a rapidly growing field, and pioneers are finding new applications all the time—from fun unique action figures to life-changing artificial limbs, the list goes on and on.
California-based software giant Autodesk—best known as creator of design staple program AutoCAD—and Amsterdam-based 3D printing R&D startup MX3D are two businesses with a keen interest in pushing the boundaries of 3D printing in architecture and engineering. This year the two have joined forces (with additional support from construction firm Heijmans, Amsterdam City Council, and several other parties)to test those boundaries and show just what 3D printing is capable of, by designing and building an aesthetically striking and fully functional 3D printed steel bridge.
According to reports, MX3D is using Autodesk software to design the metal bridge that will then be built over an Amsterdam bridge using innovative MX3D robotics to draw and weld each component of the bridge onsite from molten steel in mid-air. “What distinguishes our technology from traditional 3D printing methods is that we work according to the ‘Printing Outside the box’ principle,” said Tim Geurtjens, CTO at MX3D, explaining the project. “By printing with 6-axis industrial robots, we are no longer limited to a square box in which everything happens. Printing a functional, life-size bridge is of course the ideal way to showcase the endless possibilities of this technique.”
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A video recently released by MX3D outlines the startup’s journey in constructing this bridge, using robots developed by MX3D. After “endless testing,” initial mistakes and much trial and error while developing this technology, the company has been increasing its skill and knowledge of producing intricate and sturdy 3D sculptures. “Now we are ready for the ultimate poster project to test all facets of this highly promising printing technology: a large scale object that is functional and meaningful,” states the video.
Of course there are inherent risks with a project like this. The art and the science behind 3D printing is still developing—this project is a part of that process—and there is the potential for technical difficulties to arise over the course of building the bridge. While the primary goal of a 3D sculpture is aesthetic success, the construction of a bridge raises the stakes even further by demanding that the finished product be functionally successful in supporting the weight of foot traffic without bowing or breaking.
But with great risks come the possibility of great rewards. While 3D printing has been proving its applications, it still has an air of novelty about it. A fully functional, well-engineered and stable large-scale production like a bridge could help to build an increasingly important role for 3D printing in the construction world as a useful and versatile tool.
“I strongly believe in the future of digital production and local production, in ‘the new craft,’” added designer Joris Laarman in MX3D’s page dedicated to the project. “This bridge will show how 3D printing finally enters the world of large-scale, functional objects and sustainable materials while allowing unprecedented freedom of form. The symbolism of the bridge is a beautiful metaphor to connect the technology of the future with the old city, in a way that brings out the best of both worlds.”
A visitor center is expected to be launched in September where the public can keep up with new developments, and the bridge is expected to be completed in 2017.
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How changing your company's software code can prevent bias
Two-third of tech professionals believe organizations aren’t doing enough to address racial inequality. After all, many companies will just hire a DEI consultant, have a few training sessions and call it a day.
Wanting to take a unique yet impactful approach to DEI, Deltek, the leading global provider of software and solutions for project-based businesses, took a look at and removed all exclusive terminology in their software code. By removing terms such as ‘master’ and ‘blacklist’ from company coding, Deltek is working to ensure that diversity and inclusion are woven into every aspect of their organization.
Business Chief North America talks to Lisa Roberts, Senior Director of HR and Leader of Diversity & Inclusion at Deltek to find out more.
Why should businesses today care about removing company bias within their software code?
We know that words can have a profound impact on people and leave a lasting impression. Many of the words that have been used in a technology environment were created many years ago, and today those words can be harmful to our customers and employees. Businesses should use words that will leave a positive impact and help create a more inclusive culture in their organization
What impact can exclusive terms have on employees?
Exclusive terms can have a significant impact on employees. It starts with the words we use in our job postings to describe the responsibilities in the position and of course, we also see this in our software code and other areas of the business. Exclusive terminology can be hurtful, and even make employees feel unwelcome. That can impact a person’s desire to join the team, stay at a company, or ultimately decide to leave. All of these critical actions impact the bottom line to the organization.
Please explain how Deltek has removed bias terminology from its software code
Deltek’s engineering team has removed biased terminology from our products, as well as from our documentation. The terms we focused on first that were easy to identify include blacklist, whitelist, and master/slave relationships in data architecture. We have also made some progress in removing gendered language, such as changing he and she to they in some documentation, as well as heteronormative language. We see this most commonly in pick lists that ask to identify someone as your husband or wife. The work is not done, but we are proud of how far we’ve come with this exercise!
What steps is Deltek taking to ensure biased terminology doesn’t end up in its code in the future?
What we are doing at Deltek, and what other organizations can do, is to put accountability on employees to recognize when this is happening – if you see something, say something! We also listen to feedback our customers give us and have heard their feedback on this topic. Those are both very reactive things of course, but we are also proactive. We have created guidance that identifies words that are more inclusive and also just good practice for communicating in a way that includes and respects others.
What advice would you give to other HR leaders who are looking to enhance DEI efforts within company technology?
My simple advice is to start with what makes sense to your organization and culture. Doing nothing is worse than doing something. And one of the best places to start is by acknowledging this is not just an HR initiative. Every employee owns the success of D&I efforts, and employees want to help the organization be better. For example, removing bias terminology was an action initiated by our Engineering and Product Strategy teams at Deltek, not HR. You can solicit the voices of employees by asking for feedback in engagement surveys, focus groups, and town halls. We hear great recommendations from employees and take those opportunities to improve.