Jun 19, 2017 | By Benedict

The Technical University in Eindhoven in the Netherlands has started 3D printing an 8 m bicycle bridge in Gemert, near the city of Eindhoven. The university is carrying out the first-of-its-kind concrete 3D printing project with the Royal BAM Group, a Dutch construction company founded in 1869.

If there’s anywhere in the world that needs a 3D printed bridge (or two), it’s the Netherlands. The European country is more than 18 percent water, and is known for its extensive canals and advanced water management systems that are designed to prevent floods and rising water levels. In fact, the country’s suitability for an experimental 3D printed bridge was highlighted two years ago, when Dutch startup MX3D announced plans to build a 3D printed steel bridge in Amsterdam.

That project appears to have stalled somewhat, but a new 3D printed bridge is now being built 80 miles south of Amsterdam near the Dutch city of Eindhoven.

This new bridge, which is being constructed in Eindhoven by the Technical University of Eindhoven and construction company BAM, will be made of printed, pre-stressed, and reinforced concrete, and will be used by cyclists to cross the Peelsche Loop, a canalized river in the town of Gemert. The bridge will measure eight meters long by 3.5 meters wide.

According to the university staff and BAM workers taking part in this exciting additive manufacturing project, the concrete bridge is to be 3D printed in several parts (eight one-meter sections) using a special concrete mortar, before being put together on-site. The 3D printed sections will be placed between two bridge heads and secured using heavy-duty cables.

Although there are many important elements in the construction of the 3D printed bridge, the workers believe that the special 3D printable mortar is key to the project’s success. “If you pour normal concrete, it runs away on all sides,” said TU Eindhoven professor Theo Salet. “That is the intention, so that it spreads well in the mold. But this is a very special material: if I lay it down, it stays in place. Compare it with toothpaste or mayonnaise—it does not lose form.”

Salet added that the massive 3D printing project has been exciting for all involved, though he did point out that building the bridge has come with its own unique set of challenges. The professor called the experience “stressful,” since the first-of-its-kind structure must meet strict safety requirements.

“A lot has been done to investigate how the material behaves and how it will behave if it forms a real construction,” Salet said. “So this step, from the laboratory to something that is used in practice, is very beautiful, but also stressful.”

“We have a world’s first here,” added Marinus Schimmel, director of BAM. “With 3D printing you have more flexibility regarding the shape of the product. In addition, 3D printing a bridge is also incredibly efficient: you need less concrete, but there is also no need for shuttering where the concrete is normally poured in. You just use exactly what you need, and there is no release of CO2 emissions.”

The new 3D printed bridge will connect two existing routes in Gemert, the N605 and N272.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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