3D printers are useful for more than just making small plastic parts. Recently, a team of researchers at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands began 3D printing reinforced concrete components for a cycling bridge in an effort to test out new applications for 3D printing technologies.
In fact, this isn’t the first time engineers have 3D printed a concrete structure. Last year, the city of Madrid unveiled a 3D-printed concrete pedestrian bridge that was hailed as an engineering milestone. The cycling bridge in the Netherlands will take things a step further, however, by incorporating steel reinforcement cables into the design.
These steel cables will also be printed in conjunction with the concrete components. This process will provide the bridge with added stability, because the steel and concrete parts will be “pre-stressed” together. The bridge will also require far less concrete than a conventional bridge, because 3D-printing is less resource-intensive than pouring concrete into a mold.
As a proof of concept for their design, the researchers built a 1:2 scale model of the bridge that was able to hold a load of more than 4,400 pounds. The next step is to complete the full-scale construction and put the 3D-printed bridge to work.
It’s not clear whether this bridge-building technique could be adapted to accommodate vehicle traffic, but with additional research and development 3D-printed structures could become much stronger in the future. Someday, architects may even be able to design full-blown buildings with 3D-printed concrete.
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