The world’s first 3D printed bridge has opened to cyclists in the village of Gemert, in the Netherlands.
Printed at Eindhoven University of Technology, the reinforced, pre-stressed concrete bridge is 8 meters long, 3.5 meters wide and is capable of carrying a total weight of five tonnes.
Designed to last 30 years or more, the bridge will be used by hundreds of cyclists each day and is part of a large road construction project, led by Dutch firm BAM Infra and commissioned by the province of North-Brabant.
The bridge is part of the Noord-Om project, a new section of ring road around the village of Gemert.
The team were able to add a steel reinforcement cable while laying a strip of concrete, acting as the equivalent of the reinforcement mesh used in conventional concrete.
The steel cable handles the tensile stress in the bridge as concrete alone cannot.
Less cement is used during construction resulting in less spending on materials and decreased CO2 emissions, as cement production has a very high carbon footprint.
The printer is also able to create any desired shape, whereas conventional concrete shapes tend to be unwieldy in shape due to use of formwork.
Those who worked on the project think that 3D printing will eventually be roughly three times faster than conventional concrete techniques, as no formwork structures have to be built and dismantled and reinforcement mesh does not have to be put in place separately.
Researchers at the university plan to design even larger printed concrete structures.
At present the printed elements are assembled, otherwise the maximum size of the structure would be limited by the size of the printer.
The university is also participating in a project to print five houses that will be occupied.