684 Miles of Wire: Robots Complete World’s First 3D-Printed Steel Bridge

Weighing close to 10,000 pounds, the complex shape and curvy form of this stainless steel bridge reflects the multi-axis printers that made it, line by molten line, and help highlight the potential of metal-printing technologies.

The MX3D Bridge was designed by Joris Laarman Lab (with engineering help from Arup and other partners) and spans just over 40 feet. It is constructed from a new type of steel, laid down by a team of robots. There is a certain roughness that is a byproduct of the printing process, which could be buffed away, but also may be left to highlight the novel method of construction.

Tucked in a linear warehouse with ordinary-shaped tools and materials, the design really stands out — it is full of winding curves, demonstrating possibilities for complex forms for architectural, industrial, maritime and space applications. Shot out beyond Earth’s orbit, machines like these may build the first non-terrestrial colonies on the moon or Mars using local materials.

This first bridge, however, which has been going through design and construction phases for a long time now, we be installed over a canal in Amsterdam next year, after being subjected to rigorous load tests and analyzed so engineers can learn from and iterate on its design. Given its unusual shape, it doesn’t fit typical building codes — new ones may need to be written for its future counterparts.