Amsterdam’s robot printed steel bridge has been awarded the European Commission’s prestigious STARTS Prize 2018, which champions innovative projects at the interface of science, technology and art.

STARTS recognizes digital transformation projects that have the potential to contribute to economic and social innovation. The 3D-printed pedestrian bridge is the product of the innovative collaboration of Dutch technology startup MX3D and designers Joris Laarman Lab. 

With Arup involved as lead structural engineer, MX3D created intelligent software that transforms welding machines into 3D robotic printers to produce a fully functional steel bridge.

The pedestrian bridge, which is earmarked for completion towards the end of the year, will then be installed on the Oudezijds Achterburgwal, in Amsterdam’s red light district.

The bridge will be equipped with a sensor network, allowing the partners to gather data which will be used to build a Digital Twin. This digital twin will be used to develop a new design language for the MX3D Technique.

“This project is not only great in (terms of) engineering and design but also generates discussion about the future of design and construction. (..) The project innovates the type of materials and the techniques used, and presents a new kind of open collaboration (..) It defines data-driven algorithmic methods for evaluating the safety of the bridge and enabling the bridge to interpret its environment,” says the jury.

This bridge marks the beginning of a ‘great urban transformation’, according to the report. Although there are many large-scale 3D-printing projects around the world, this groundbreaking project is delivering something that will actually be used by the people living in one of Europe’s key cities.

Robotic construction techniques open up a whole new dialogue in terms of what the built environment may look like in the future. We are delighted to be partners in this collaborative venture with other world-leading specialists, combining creative problem-solving with a wealth of knowledge and expertise”, Mathew Vola, Director at Arup said.

To make this project come to life, MX3D has set up an innovative collaboration between a large group of partners: Autodesk, ArcelorMittal, Arup, Force Technology, Imperial College London, Air Liquide, ABB Robotics, Heijmans, Lenovo and Lloyds Register Foundation. The public partners are TU Delft, AMS Institute (Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Studies) and the Municipality of Amsterdam. Sponsors are STV, Oerlikon, FARO and Plymovent. The Visitor Center is supported by the Dutch VSB Fund.

“The STARTS Prize award is a great honour for the effective collaboration between all the contributors of the MX3D Bridge project. Besides the wonderful outcome of the project, a functional 3D printed stainless steel bridge, the flexible, almost informal connection between creative, technological and governmental organisations can serve as an example for future innovative projects,” said Gijs van der Velden, CEO of MX3D.