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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Intelliwave SiteSense boosts APTIM material tracking
“We’ve been engaged with the APTIM team since early 2019 providing SiteSense, our mobile construction SaaS solution, for their maintenance and construction projects, allowing them to track materials and equipment, and manage inventory.
We have been working with the APTIM team to standardize material tracking processes and procedures, ultimately with the goal of reducing the amount of time spent looking for materials. Industry studies show that better management of materials can lead to a 16% increase in craft labour productivity.
Everyone knows construction is one of the oldest industries but it’s one of the least tech driven comparatively. About 95% of Engineering and Construction data captured goes unused, 13% of working hours are spent looking for data and around 30% of companies have applications that don’t integrate.
With APTIM, we’re looking at early risk detection, through predictive analysis and forecasting of material constraints, integrating with the ecosystem of software platforms and reporting on real-time data with a ‘field-first’ focus – through initiatives like the Digital Foreman. The APTIM team has seen great wins in the field, utilising bar-code technology, to check in thousands of material items quickly compared to manual methods.
There are three key areas when it comes to successful Materials Management in the software sector – culture, technology, and vendor engagement.
Given the state of world affairs, access to data needs to be off site via the cloud to support remote working conditions, providing a ‘single source of truth’ accessed by many parties; the tech sector is always growing, so companies need faster and more reliable access to this cloud data; digital supply chain initiatives engage vendors a lot earlier in the process to drive collaboration and to engage with their clients, which gives more assurance as there is more emphasis on automating data capture.
It’s been a challenging period with the pandemic, particularly for the supply chain. Look what happened in the Suez Canal – things can suddenly impact material costs and availability, and you really have to be more efficient to survive and succeed. Virtual system access can solve some issues and you need to look at data access in a wider net.
Solving problems comes down to better visibility, and proactively solving issues with vendors and enabling construction teams to execute their work. The biggest cause of delays is not being able to provide teams with what they need.
On average 2% of materials are lost or re-ordered, which only factors in the material cost, what is not captured is the duplicated effort of procurement, vendor and shipping costs, all of which have an environmental impact.
As things start to stabilise, APTIM continues to utilize SiteSense to boost efficiencies and solve productivity issues proactively. Integrating with 3D/4D modelling is just the precipice of what we can do. Access to data can help you firm up bids to win work, to make better cost estimates, and AI and ML are the next phase, providing an eco-system of tools.
A key focus for Intelliwave and APTIM is to increase the availability of data, whether it’s creating a data warehouse for visualisations or increasing integrations to provide additional value. We want to move to a more of an enterprise usage phase – up to now it’s been project based – so more people can access data in real time.