Robots to 3D print a bridge in mid-air

Here is the craziest news of the day: robots will build a bridge over a canal in Amsterdam by 3D printing it in mid-air.

They will need no supporting structures. Dutch 3D printing R&D start-up MX3D has invented a 3D printing technique whereby multi-axis industrial robots are able to print strong, complex structures anywhere without needing a print bed, IB Times writes in a report.

The material used is a metal that melts and then solidifies within seconds, fast enough for it not to fall down into the water.

Aided by the geometry of the overall bridge design, the material is able to print horizontally without bending.

"We start with a piece of metal attached to the canal bank. The robots start from one side of the canal, they print their own support structure, so essentially it prints its own bridge. It stands on the floor of the bridge, 3D prints out more and keeps moving," MX3D's CTO Tim Geurtjens told IB Times.

"We have the same physics as everyone else, but it looks like it's gravity-defying. We put a drop of metal, drop by drop at a time and it solidifies. But you could also print tubes, and then print layer over layer of tubes."

The 3D printed bridge project is a collaboration between MX3D, designer Joris Laarman, Autodesk, construction firm Heijmans and several other partners, including French welding specialists Air Liquide.

Geurtjens says MX3D's software could change the future of robotics. He said: "Our software translates CAD model software into welding strategies, and then translates that into the Rapid software used by ABB to tell the robot how to move.

Full report can be found over at the IB Times website.