MX3D installs first stainless steel 3D printed bridge
MX3D kicked off this project in 2015 when it proposed printing a metal bridge with its large-scale, robotic 3D printing technology, illustrating how digital tools can create a new form language for architectural objects.
“The Bridge is only the beginning for our technology, by now MX3D has introduced its metal printing tool on the industrial market, and with this tool already many companies have started printing like us,” said CEO Gijs van der Velden.
The project was brought to life thanks to funding of the Lloyd's Register Foundation and the collaboration with a range of industry leaders including ABB, Air Liquide, ArcelorMittal, Autodesk, Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS Institute) and Lenovo, which all have helped MX3D realise its bold, ambitious vision.
This collaborative effort saw the bridge brought to life between 2017-2018, when four robots 3D printed the structure using more than 6,000kgs of stainless steel.
The proprietary MX3D printing technology uses off the shelf welding robots to build up metal objects layer by layer. The MX3D bridge design was created using generative design and topology optimisation techniques. The combination of those technologies allow for a higher form of liberty and a promise of significant material reduction.
Smart MX3D bridge is a ‘living laboratory’
The bridge serves as a living laboratory. Equipped with a state-of-the-art sensor network, the ‘Smart Bridge’ is powering a cutting edge research project. Together with academic and industry researchers, the City of Amsterdam will use the bridge’s data streams to explore the role of IoT systems in the built environment. For instance: whether such systems can anonymously analyse crowd behaviour, to help better understand the impact of tourism in the district. The project also addresses questions about open data, data ethics, and citizen ownership of city analytics.
Smart sensor network feeds ‘digital twin’
Realising this vision required an extended collaboration between MX3D, The Alan Turing Institute (the Turing), Arup, Autodesk, FORCE Technologies, and the University of Twente. Between them, they have spent the last three years creating and installing a sophisticated sensor network, to enable real-time data collection, to represent those data flows in live models, and to create usable analytics on top of that data which feeds into a Digital Twin of the bridge.
The bridge’s sensors collect structural measurements such as strain, rotation, load, displacement, and vibration, and also measure environmental factors such as air quality and temperature.
Together, this data is used to create a ‘digital twin,’ an accurate computer model that represents the physical bridge in real time. The digital twin will help engineers measure the bridge’s health and monitor how it changes over its lifespan. The sensor data will also be used to “teach” the bridge to understand what is happening on it, beginning with the ability to count how many people are crossing it and how quickly.
Autodesk worked closely with the partners of the Data Centric Engineering Programme at the Turing as well as FORCE Technologies and University of Twente to design and install the sensor network.
Even in its prototype form, this network was useful when performing structural testing on the bridge. Load testing and materials testing were both conducted by the Data Centric Engineering team, which proved that the bridge is able to hold at least a 19.5 ton load, well above its ultimate design load.
The UK’s national institute for data science and artificial intelligence (AI), The Turing, began its involvement with the bridge by assembling an interdisciplinary team of data science and AI experts from its Data Centric Engineering Programme. The Turing is hosting the bridge data for the full two year period covered by the bridge’s current operating permit and has conducted a thorough ethics review of the project to ensure that the scientific goals of the project do not compromise the privacy of the public.
Positive governmental role in enabling innovation
As governments worldwide strive to build smarter cities, this valuable research project helps experts improve the design, operation and safety of future 3D printed structures and IoT systems under all conditions.
As a key partner, the City of Amsterdam shows how local governments can act as facilitators in the introduction of new technologies. The support of the city, stadsdeel Centrum and its Chief Technology Office (CTO) CTO office were essential in making this complex project succeed. The project in turn helped MX3D to gain worldwide success with it’s product: a software license that turns a welding robot into a high end 3D metal printer.
The NOW furthermore funded a project called ‘BRIDE’, in which University of Twente, TU Delft, Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS Institute) Amsterdam Institute of Metropolitan Studies and MX3D study the social side of a digital world, like the bridge.
Barriers and unexpected changes
Groundbreaking projects inevitably run into barriers and unexpected changes. The original design concept was changed considerably due to engineering concerns and printing it on site turned out unfeasible due to safety and technical concerns. In March 2017, the printing and assembly of large segments of the bridge began. Final placement had to be postponed nearly 2 years until the renovation of the canal walls was completed and all the formalities were ironed out.
In parallel MX3D engineers have continued working on realizing their vision of robots autonomously 3D-printing infrastructure. A robot was successful in triangulating its position and print while placed on the bridge. Printing bridges without human intervention is not science fiction anymore.
BT and Microsoft unveil strategic partnership
BT and Microsoft have launched a strategic partnership to accelerate innovation across enterprise voice, cyber security and industry-focused services in sectors from digital manufacturing to health.
BT has already been named one of the first development partners for Microsoft Operator Connect and Operator Connect Conferencing. The renewed agreement will allow BT to build on this relationship and offer its own branded global managed voice services directly through Microsoft Teams, with an approach that further enhances customer experience and creates new opportunities for growth.
The strategic partnership will build on BT’s existing portfolio of cyber security services built on Microsoft technology. It will see the companies push forward with the design and launch of a new generation of managed security services to enable and protect the modern collaborative workplace. BT will work closely with Microsoft to develop distinct security propositions to defend customers’ operations across the cloud as well as its own IT estate.
Sustainability and collaboration on digital skills are integral to the partnership. BT and Microsoft will work together on further enhancing sustainability credentials within their supply chains and join forces on promoting digital skills in the communities.
“BT and Microsoft are at the forefront of innovation in global digital platforms and connectivity that will take technology and communication beyond limits,” said Bas Burger, CEO of Global at BT and executive sponsor of BT’s partnership with Microsoft. “This partnership will ensure all of Microsoft’s solutions work ‘Best on BT’ and support both companies’ commitments to improving digital skills in the community.”
Omar Abbosh, corporate vice president of industry solutions at Microsoft, said: “BT can use Microsoft’s cutting-edge tools to develop new communications services that meet the needs and demands of today’s customers. By aligning our visions for communication, connectivity, security and digital technology, Microsoft and BT will support real growth for businesses across the world.”
Microsoft's vision is to transform construction and built environment businesses with design innovation, a supply chain you can control, and a connected, safer, more productive workforce.
Microsoft recently unveiled strong results for the quarter ending June 30:
- Revenue totalled $46.2 billion, up 21%
- Operating income was $19.1 billion, up 42%
- Net income was $16.5 billion, up 47%
- Diluted earnings per share was $2.17, up 49%
For the year, revenues totalled $168.1 billion (up 18%), operating income hit $69.9 billion (up 32%), net income was $61.3 billion GAAP and $60.7 billion non-GAAP, and increased 38% and 37%, respectively.
“We are innovating across the technology stack to help organizations drive new levels of tech intensity across their business,” said Satya Nadella, chairman and chief executive officer of Microsoft. “Our results show that when we execute well and meet customers’ needs in differentiated ways in large and growing markets, we generate growth, as we’ve seen in our commercial cloud – and in new franchises we’ve built, including gaming, security, and LinkedIn, all of which surpassed $10 billion in annual revenue over the past three years.”
In a trading update last month, BT reported profit after tax £2m, down £446m, due to a "one-off tax charge in the quarter to reflect the remeasurement of deferred tax balances following the enactment of the new UK corporation tax rate of 25% from April 2023".