Watch: 3D printed bridge in Amsterdam

Joris Laarman for MX3D

It’s not yet feasible or cost effective to erect a 20-story building with a 3D printer, but printing a bridge is certainly a good start.

A Dutch startup is close to completing that exact feat.

MX3D will use its specialized printer to build a steel footbridge across an Amsterdam canal. Robotic arms will essentially draw 3D metal in midair to create a steel structure. If you can’t wrap your head around that right now, check out this video: 

Mounted with specially developed welding heads, the robots could be positioned in one of two ways on the bridge. One scenario would place two robots on the same side of the bridge but on opposite sides of the footpath. Alternatively, the robots could be placed at opposite banks and meet in the middle like the kiss scene in The Lady and the Tramp. The robots could print their own support structures as they move along or they could be mounted on moored barges in the canal.

“The final strategy has yet to be decided,” MX3D Co-founder and CTO Tim Geurtjens told us via email. “We will most likely reveal the final location of the bridge next month.”

The effort is a collaboration with Autodesk, the Dutch construction firm Heijmans and the Swiss robotics maker ABB.

Check out this story in The Economist for more information and see a collage of MX3D’s photos below.

Smart Cities: Real solutions, engaged citizens and unanswered questions

The following is the first post in our series on Smart Cities.

You’re already ten minutes late for a meeting. Driving through the narrow, winding streets of the city during rush hour looking for a coveted parking space, you know your chances of success are equivalent to winning the state lottery. You slowly circle the block, bouncing over familiar potholes, as you desperately look for someone walking to a parked car. Your search has already taken 20 minutes and it will take longer because you just saw yet another lucky driver find an open spot just a few cars ahead of you. You curse out loud and tap the brake to avoid missing another golden opportunity while the drivers behind you lean on their horns.

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To many, the infrastructure outside our buildings, such as congested city streets, is far more infuriating than anything inside our buildings could ever be. But infrastructure inefficiencies in our cities are also frustrating many businesses and building owners who believe that all this wasted time and resources will inevitably bring our economy to its knees. In fact, IBM has reported that traffic congestion in the United States costs $87 billion in fuel and lost productivity annually. With statistics like these, developers and business owners cannot ignore the challenges of inefficient infrastructure while focusing only on the inefficiencies of their own buildings. Some organizations are already ahead of the curve. There are increasingly more city governments that understand the risks of doing nothing, and innovative companies that see great potential and profit in doing something. Today smart cities are beginning to experiment with innovative technologies that could potentially transform the ways cities, citizens and even buildings share data with each other, streamline processes and improve the quality of life for their citizens.

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Minecraft summer camp builds AEC innovators of the future

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On a recent summer morning Corey Philips was more like a Best Buy employee opening the doors on Black Friday than a councilor at a computer camp for children. The 35-year-old greeted a group of elementary school students fresh off a snack break at Einstein’s Workshop in Burlington, Mass. Rushing into a computer lab, the children whooped, hollered, shimmied and shook their way to their seats.

They couldn’t wait any longer to play one of the world’s most popular videogames.

“Are you guys ready to be unfrozen?” Philips said before unlocking their computers to resume his class that uses Minecraft to teach architecture to children.

Believe it or not these kids and millions more like them are the future innovators of the AEC industry. The construction-based online game allows players to build unbelievable structures and cities with 3D digital blocks that look like LEGO’s. While playing Minecraft, kids don’t even realize they are learning valuable problem solving and computer skills that are crucial for the architects and civil engineers of tomorrow.

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