A Madrid park made history with the installation of the first ever pedestrian bridge created from a 3D printer. The pioneering bridge was created by a team from the Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, a Barcelona based research and education center that worked with a contingent of architects, mechanical & structural engineers, and municipal representatives to bring the design to life. The 40 feet bridge spans a stretch of water in the Castilla-La Mancha park in Alcobendas, north of the Spanish capital. It is constructed out of a fused concrete powder micro-reinforced with thermoplastic polypropylene measuring 12 meters in length and 1.75 meters wide. Enrico Dini, a pioneer in giant 3D-printing techniques, was a principle collaborator with his D-Shape printer allowing for the creation of this novel structure.
The IAA stated in a release that the parametric design allowed for the optimal distribution of the material and minimized the amount of waste by recycling the raw material during production. The design also allowed for maximum structural performance. The material is used only where it is needed, with complete freedom in terms of form, maintaining its porosity thanks to the application of generative algorithms and challenging the traditional techniques of construction.
Large-scale 3D printing has become more widespread in recent years and many types of materials are currently being experimented. A 3D-printed office building was constructed in Dubai in 2016 utilizing custom-built printers that exuded a cement mixture, while an Italian engineering company has been working on massive 3D printers that can build structures out of mud, clay or natural fibers. Dutch printing firm, MX3D, is even planning on building a steel bridge across a canal in Amsterdam using an innovative robotic 3D-printing technology that allows structures to be created on-site, in mid-air. 3D printing will change the face of production, industry, and construction in coming decades. Just what the computer and desk jet printer did to the printing press.