Traditional additive manufacturing technology offers so many possibilities for all kinds of manufacturers. However, there still are some draw backs with standard 3D printing technology. The size of the component being printed is constricted to the size of the printer itself. With household products, aircraft engine parts and even food are all able to be manufactured using 3d printing, complex architecture is still a very new concept.
A Dutch research and development company MX3D is creating a new way to 3D print. They want to use 3D printing to create an ornate metal bridge over a canal in downtown Amsterdam.
MX3D has put Designer Joris Laarman in charge of this ambitious project. With over 10 years working with 3D printing technologies he has wanted to be able to 3D print entire pieces of furniture all at one time. He began by asking 3D printing companies if they could develop a machine that would be able to 3D print a full-sized chair but never could find a willing participant.
Instead of looking for an outside supplier for the 3D printer, the team at MX3D took it upon their selves to develop the 3D printer of their dreams. They began by taking an industrial 6-axis robot and fitted it with an array of different tools. Then, the team developed an additive manufacturing method called MX3D Resin. This new extrusion process was able to cure the resin quickly and gave the 3D printer the ability to print objects on any surface without any additional support structures.
Following the development of the MX3D Resin, MX3D created an innovative multiple axis 3D printing tool known as MX3D Metal. The technology brings together an industrial robot with a welding machine to increase the flexibility of the machine. The robot can print with metals that include steel, stainless steel, aluminum, bronze or copper with no additional support.
MX3D has plans to open a 6,500 square foot test facility north of Amsterdam. They would be able to test the printers capabilities as well as see if the concept is possible. The company isn’t sure whether or not they will build the bridge in the facility then move it to the desired area or if they will print it on location.
There is a lot of concern surrounding the regulations, safety and security of printing such a structure with these highly advanced 3D printers in a crowded neighborhood. If they can’t bypass these hurtles, they will build a replica canal in their test lot and print it there. They expect the bridge to span about 10 meters and for the printer to accomplish this task they will need to work for about three to five months.
The majority of the development time is related to software combined with extensive testing of the printers. The software MX3D has developed drives the robots on a track as well as the 3D printing technique itself. MX3D has also working closely with the company Autodesk to incorporate some of their software to help with the complicated process of 3D printing an entire bridge at one time.
MX3D has plans to start construction on the bridge during the fall of 2017. The bridge will be composed of a new steel composite that was developed at the University of Delft. They will use two robots provided by the robotics company ABB as well as use welding tooling by Air Liquide to heat the metal to 1,500 degrees C. These robots will not only construct the bridge by they will build their own rail-supports and gradually 3D print the bridge and use the rail to progress across the structure.
This new technique would eliminate the cost concerns of building complex architecture structures. The robot follows its programming and exerts the same effort whether the structure is a straight line or a complex shape. MX3D has revolutionized the already revolutionary 3D printing process.