The world’s first printed footbridge has been erected in Madrid by a team made up of the Institute of Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) and contractor Acciona.
With a total length of 12m and a width of 1.75m, the bridge was printed using micro-reinforced concrete. It was completed last month in the urban park of Castilla-La Mancha in Alcobendas, a suburb of Madrid.
The IAAC, which has been researching the use of 3D printing in construction for the past 15 years, commented in its press statement that the technology had not previously been applied for a complete civil engineering project.
In the past, 3D printing has been used to build houses in China and an office building and museum in Dubai, and an Italian company has been working on a large printers that can build structures out of natural materials (see further reading stories, below).
Meanwhile, Dutch printing specialist MX3D is working on installing a steel bridge across a canal in Amsterdam using a robotic technology that allows structures to be created in situ, and in mid-air.
However, the IAAC has claimed the first complete bridge. The institute said the design, which is intended to mimic organic forms, was developed using parametric design, a mathematical approach to architecture that was pioneered by Catalonia’s most famous designer, Antonio GaudÃ.
GaudÃ’s Casa MilÃ . The bridge alludes to the Catalonian master of parametric design (Jame Meneses/Flickr)
The institute added that this approach allowed it to optimise "the distribution of materials and minimise the amount of waste by recycling the raw material during manufacture".
It said: "The computational design also allows to maximise the structural performance, being able to dispose the material only where it is needed, with total freedom of forms, maintaining the porosity thanks to the application of generative algorithms and challenging the traditional techniques of construction."
A video of the design process can be seen here.
The project, which was organised by Acciona, was developed by a multidisciplinary team of architects, mechanical engineers, structural engineers and representatives of the municipal administration, among them Enrico Dini, who researches large-scale 3D manufacturing.
Top image: The finished bridge and its builders (IAAC)