If you’re at Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven this week, you can walk across the first 3D-printed steel bridge. In 2015, Dutch 3D printing company MX3D unveiled their plans to print the footbridge. Now that it’s complete, The Bridge, as its called, is on display through Oct. 28.
Though the engineers originally announced that The Bridge would be built in 2 months, it ended up taking about a year for the full 40-foot-long span to be printed. All the while, MX3D opened its doors to allow visitors to observe the bridge’s printing. Since its completion in March 2018, engineers have been installing sensors that will track the bridge’s structural integrity, surrounding environment, and displacement and vibration, which will provide an estimate of how many people cross it. All that data will be fed into a computer model that the engineers call the bridge’s “digital twin,” allowing engineers to monitor the bridge’s overall safety and condition in real time.
The result is not only striking—it would look at home on the set of a sci-fi film—but also hints at a new direction for 3D printing. The Bridge combines two emerging sectors: sensors for large-scale construction projects like buildings, bridges, and dams, along with adventurous new horizons in 3D printing, like building houses, artificial coral reefs, and even repairing components in space.
If you’re not going to make it to Eindhoven this week, you can plan a trip to Amsterdam next year, when the bridge is to be installed as a crossing over Oudezijds Achterburgwal, a well-known canal in the center of the city.