One of the biggest (pun totally intended) trends occurring in 3D printing right now is printing bridges. We just covered the opening of China's first 3D-printed footbridge in Shanghai, but another record-setting 3D-printed concrete pedestrian bridge was unveiled on the same weekend and also in Shanghai.
Professor of architecture at Tsinghua University Xu Weiguo designed the bridge based off of the ancient Zhaozhou Bridge that was built during the Sui Dynasty (581-618 CE) and still exists today. While the Zhaozhou Bridge took 11 years to build, the 3D printed concrete bridge crossing an artificial river in the Wisdom Bay Innovation Park of Baoshan District took only 450 hours to complete by 10 workers; it also cost two-thirds of what a traditionally built bridge would cost. At 26 meters long, it’s the world’s longest 3D printed footbridge (or any type of bridge). The bridge is comprised of 68 side pieces and 64 deck pieces that are sandwiched together, which is effective if not as cool as being one continuous piece like the plastic bridge.
The bridge also includes sensors that accumulate displacement data that will be used to improve the design of future bridges. “3D printing is a manufacturing revolution,” Xu said. “The technology greatly reduces the need for skilled labor, a commodity expected to be in severely short supply in China in the next decade or so.” He said they plan to print a house next.
Wisdom Bay Innovation Park is home to the China 3D Printing Museum as well as other high-tech companies focused on robotics and artificial intelligence, so it’s a fitting place for a 3D printed bridge. 100 people were invited to be the first to walk across the bridge, and it seems all 100 stood on it at the same time, providing a convincing demonstration of its capacity and strength. 2019 will see the opening of more 3D printed bridges as construction firms show off their new abilities.