Dutch Company Plans to 3D-Print a Metal Bridge in Amsterdam

6-16-15 3D printing bridge
Joris Laarman will design the bridge that Dutch startup MX3D will 3D-print over a canal in Amsterdam in 2017. Joris Laarman/MX3D

Amsterdam-based startup MX3D boasts the tagline “Printing outside the box” on its home page, and its recently announced bridge project certainly complies. The company is planning to 3D-print an “intricate, ornate metal bridge” over a canal in Amsterdam.

In a description of the technology that would make such a feat possible, the company explains that it uses multi-axis industrial robots equipped with 3D printing technology and software that lets them print with metals, plastics and combinations of different materials to create complex and durable structures.

“Printing a functional, life-size bridge is of course the ideal way to showcase the endless possibilities of this technique,” Tim Geurtjens, the company’s chief technology officer, is quoted as saying.

The bridge project will enter its research and development phase in September 2015, MX3D tells Newsweek. At that time, it will also open a visitor center where the public can follow the project’s progress, according to a press release emailed to Newsweek. The company, along with the city of Amsterdam, will soon announce the exact location of the bridge. Dutch designer Joris Laarman, who experiments with new technologies in his work, will create a design specifically suited for that site. The actual live printing of the pedestrian bridge is expected to begin in the spring of 2017 and will take about two months to complete.

“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,” Laarman said in the press release. “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.”

Amsterdam is well suited to the innovative project, with more than 1,200 bridges crisscrossing 165 canals. The city’s canal district, a UNESCO heritage site, was built in the 16th and 17th centuries.

“In the 17th and 18th centuries, Amsterdam was seen as the realization of the ideal city that was used as a reference urban model for numerous projects for new cities around the world,” reads the UNESCO website, which calls the design “unique and innovative” and an illustration of “exemplary hydraulic and urban planning on a large scale.”

In a video released last week, the company, which has worked to develop technologies for printing with resin and metal, describes its work, the setbacks along the way and the “ultimate poster project”—building a steel bridge in the heart of Amsterdam.