In what will be a remarkable demonstration of the capabilities of additive manufacturing for construction purposes, developers in the Netherlands plan to use robotic 3D printing devices to build a steel bridge in its entirety over an historic canal in Amsterdam.

Innovative Dutch design house Heijmans is teaming up with designer Joris Laarman and fledging tech company MX3D to trial the pioneering building technique, which will involve the use of a set of mobile robots to create a continuous extrusion structure.

Two teams of robots will commence building the bridge from opposite sides of the canal, creating a pair of self-supporting steel space frames that are capable of bearing the weight of the devices themselves even prior to completion.


The robots will build and assemble the bridge by extruding and then welding together its steel components to form the load-bearing structures.

Throughout the entire process of construction, the robots will clamber across the very structures they are creating before either side of the bridge eventually meets in the middle and the entire structure is complete.

According to Jurre van der Ven, innovation manager for Heijmans, the project exemplifies the critical importance of design to potential technical innovations during the construction process.

“Construction and design are currently rather separate factors in construction – the architect designs something and the constructor interprets the design and builds what he thinks is needed,” said van der Ven. “But using 3D printing for a bridge makes design and construction operate hand-in-hand.”

“For instance, both activities are done at the same time, instead of first building the structure and then adding the design later. This means we will also have to start looking at design in a completely different manner.”

In addition to load-bearing bridges, the technology has endless potential applications in the fields of infrastructure and construction, including the development of high-rise buildings.

The technology could also serve as a pivotal step in the further automation of construction sites, leading to increased safety, greater efficiency and reduced costs.