MX3D – a company in Amsterdam that develops robotic 3D print technology – is the creator of the new project, in which a 3D-printed metal footbridge shall be built by 2017.
Tim Geurtjens, co-founder and chief technology officer at MX3D said that the bridge will be constructed by robots that ‘print’ layer upon layer of steel to create a solid object in midair.
MX3D’s robots are very different from regular desktop 3D printers, because they build objects out in the open, rather than inside a box. The robots look like huge mechanical arms, which end in a device that resembles a torch.
The torches melt layers of steel on top of each other; the steel comes from a wire that is melted as the robots extrude it.
Most 3D printers tend to extrude materials only in the following directions: up and down, left to right, forward and backward. However the MX3D robots are able to print in whichever direction they prefer.
Maurice Conti, director of Strategic Innovation at Autodesk said that what makes MX3D’s technology revolutionary is the ability of the robots to print in all directions, and at a very large scale.
Autodesk is a multinational software corporation based in California that makes software for many industries like engineering, architecture, or construction. This company is behind AutoCAD – computer-aided design (CAD) software that architects, engineers, graphic designers (and others) use to create three-dimensional real-world objects in the digital sphere.
Autodesk and MX3D have been working together to develop software that allows a better communication between humans and 3D-printing robots.
Even though the robots cannot print massive structures at once, in the end the objects that they create are significantly bigger than those built using methods like selective laser melting (SLM).
Selective laser melting was first developed in 1990. It is a 3D printing process in which a laser melts small particles of metal (titanium or aluminium) onto a metal base. According to Conti, the objects printed using selective laser melting – like medical implants or airplane parts – are usually small enough to fit inside a shoebox.
The bridge across Amsterdam’s Oudezijds Achterburgwal canal will be build inside a huge warehouse. Although he did not state how much the 3D-printed bridge would cost, Geurtjens said that the MX3D printing method is a lot cheaper than SLM.
In the future, the robots could be used in space to fix broken satellites, or at sea to repair offshore oil rigs.
Image Source: makeitleo