Nov 6, 2017 | By Benedict

Researchers from the UK’s Alan Turing Institute and Imperial College London are adding a large sensor network to MX3D’s 3D printed steel bridge, currently under development in Amsterdam and set for completion in 2018. The sensors will monitor the “health” of the 3D printed bridge in real time.

Back in September, we reported that MX3D’s 3D printed steel bridge was one-third finished and set for completion in June 2018. That promising update has now been followed by a slew of new facts about the groundbreaking Amsterdam pedestrian crossing.

The sensor network was designed by a team of structural engineers, mathematicians, computer scientists, and statisticians from the Alan Turing Institute’s Lloyd’s Register Foundation programme in data-centric engineering.

With that wealth of expertise between them, the talented team was able to create a sensor system that will purportedly ensure the long-term performance of the 3D printed bridge. Structural measurements such as strain, displacement, and vibration will all be closely monitored with the sensor system, as will environmental factors such as air quality and temperature.

Having all this data to hand will allow the 3D printed bridge engineers to keep tabs on the “health” of the Amsterdam bridge, and will also help them see how the physical properties of the bridge change over time.

Moreover, all this data collected from the sensor network won’t just end up in spreadsheets. Instead, the Dutch 3D printed bridge will have a kind of “digital twin,” a 3D computer model that engineers will be able to examine on their computer screens.

Designed by the Steel Structures group in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Imperial College London, this digital twin will purportedly provide valuable insights on the performance of the 3D printed bridge, and will even allow the engineers to carry out weather and strain simulations to predict how the real bridge will perform under certain conditions. Ultimately, it should also reduce the need for costly and impractical physical inspections of the finished structure.

“The Alan Turing Institute’s digital twin of the bridge will help with the creation of a new design language,” explained Gijs van der Velden, COO of MX3D. “We hope that this data-centric engineering method will speed up the introduction of this exciting new production technique into the construction market.”

Interestingly, all data captured from the 3D printed bridge’s sensor network will be made completely open, allowing researchers around the world to examine the performance of the bridge in their own way. This will ultimately make the steel structure a kind of “living laboratory” for engineering research.

This huge sensor network and the “digital twin” aren’t, however, the only areas of testing and analysis being carried out on the imposing 3D printed steel structure.

Scientists from Imperial are working with MX3D to carry out material tests on the steel being 3D printed for the bridge. Since many pedestrians and cyclists are expected to cross the steel structure when it is finally installed, the metal being used to make it must be put through its paces before the structure is declared fit for use.

“The 3D bridge being installed by the MX3D team next year will be a world first in engineering,” commented Professor Mark Girolami, Director of the Turing-Lloyd’s Register Foundation Programme for Data-Centric Engineering. “This data-centric, multidisciplinary approach to capturing the bridge’s data will also mark a step-change in the way bridges are designed, constructed, and managed, generating valuable insights for the next generation of bridges and other major public structures.”

Installation of the bridge’s sensor network will be carried out in collaboration with the Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction at Cambridge, led by Dr Mohammed Elshafie, while other contributors to the ambitious project include Autodesk and the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions.

Dutch architectural innovator MX3D has also been responsible for several other exciting additive manufacturing projects, including a 3D printed cafe at Miami's Perez Art Museum and the Fab City urban solutions showcase.

But while the company’s Amsterdam bridge will be a world first in steel 3D printing, it won’t be the first 3D printed bridge in the Netherlands.

A few weeks ago, residents of the Dutch town of Gemert were treated to the opening of an entirely different 3D printed bridge. Billed as the world’s first 3D printed bicycle bridge, the eight-meter-long concrete structure will serve the area’s large number of commuting cyclists, crossing over a water-filled ditch and shortening journey times for many locals.

The concrete 3D printed bridge, which has around 800 layers, was made by engineers at the Eindhoven University of Technology.

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Application

 

 

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