Amsterdam’s Revolutionary 3D Printed Steel Bridge

MX3D, a Dutch robotic manufacturing technology startup, is celebrating the completion of its revolutionary 3D printed steel bridge. It will soon be installed over a canal in Amsterdam. Creating the bridge required years of design, engineering, and coding. Printed from over 9,000 pounds of stainless steel, the bridge represents an innovative application of this traditional structural material.

MX3D wanted a way to showcase its ability to print large-scale functional objects with durable materials. The bridge demonstrates the possibilities while combining the old with the new. Amsterdam’s old canal system will be paired with the latest in 3D printing technology in this artistically interesting but functional bridge.

How it was created

Using a combination of welding machines and coding, six-axis industrial robots were created to print the bridge. 3D printing, or additive manufacturing, creates a product by adding layer upon layer of material. This is generally done on a small scale, inside a box on the printer. The pedestrian bridge is something different altogether. Printing into thin air, the robots created the bridge one layer at a time.

The entire process required collaboration between the fields of construction, technology, engineering, and design. Designer Joris Laarman explains the constant need for revision before production could proceed. At each step, factors such as safety, practicality, and durability were questioned and tested. Models of the bridge were created and re-created. Actual 3D printing on the bridge did not start until a year and a half after the process of creation began.

How it will be maintained

Technology takes the lead in monitoring and maintaining the structural integrity of the footbridge. A sensor network will track displacement, strain, and vibration. It will also track and record the temperature and air quality around the bridge. Later, the network sensors will also track pedestrian speed.

Using data recorded by the sensor network, a virtual model of the bridge will be created and monitored in the lab. This process will assist future efforts to create and monitor 3D printed bridges.

Recognition

MX3D has won two awards this year. They are both awarded to companies that display forward-looking design and techniques.

The bridge won the Dutch Design Public award for 2018. “The form and material freedom achieved by the design hint at almost unimaginable scenarios,” the Dutch Design awards website states.

MX3D is also a STARTS award (S+T+ARTS=STARTS – Innovation at the Nexus of Science, Technology, and the ARTS) winner this year for the bridge project. The jury that granted the award issued a statement that expressed its thoughts on the bridge project: “(The) 3D-printed metal bridge is a really important marker for the future of architecture and construction.”

In the future

Engineering and technology professionals will be watching and waiting as the bridge is installed and used in Amsterdam. Monitoring and maintaining the bridge may prove to be another challenge. With each new advance in technology, some difficult challenges can be expected. This bridge offers many opportunities to learn more about the potential uses and qualities of stainless steel.

By bringing 3D printing “outside the box“, MX3D explores the unknown. Stainless steel has long been used to create structurally sound objects. Printing these objects is stepping into a new frontier in engineering, design, and technology. “A world of new opportunities is in front of us but we can only just see its contours,” says Laarman. Previously unknown uses of stainless steel may arise as technology and manufacturing continue to collaborate on large projects.

Are stainless steel straws the future?

Straws have definitely been causing a quite a stir lately. Pun completely intended.

Plastic straws are everywhere. From the local coffee shop to our favorite smoothie place. Most of us pick up these items without even considering the environmental impact of one-time use plastic products. Unlike some other materials, plastic can take up to 1000 years to decompose in a landfill.

The recent plastic straw ban aims to change this, ordering business to nix plastic straws by 2020. Many plastic products, including straws, can be washed into the ocean and significantly injure marine life. With local governments expediting this change, many are scrambling to find alternatives to plastic straws.

 

Where do we go from here?

 

For many, giving up the use of straws is simply just not an option. How can you drink your favorite boba tea without a straw? Fortunately, with the purchase of a reusable straw, you can enjoy your boba tea and save the environment at the same time.

When it comes to reusable straws, you will most likely have to decide between bamboo, silicone or stainless steel. Reusable straws are made from several materials, but bamboo and stainless steel appear to be the most popular.

While both types of straws decrease our dependence on plastic, stainless steel seems to be the prime option.

Bamboo is more delicate than stainless steel, so the bamboo straws are more likely to get damaged in your backpack or purse. Stainless steel straws also last quite a bit longer than bamboo straws. These straws can last as long, and in some cases even longer, than regular stainless steel cutlery.

Bamboo straws will need to be replaced every few months to years, depending on the amount of use.

The University of Guam’s Sea Grant Program, an initiative focused on restoring clean oceans, suggests stainless steel straws are the best place to start.

 

Taking care of your reusable straw

 

Washing your straw at home is quite straightforward. You can rinse the straw with hot water and disinfect with soap. If you have a stainless steel straw, it is also dishwasher-safe. It really can’t get too much simpler than that!

Using the straw while you are out may take a bit more planning. After you use the straw, make sure to rinse it under warm water. You don’t want liquid from your sugary drink getting stuck in your straw. After the rinse, you can just put the straw back in its’ pouch and take it home to be washed. No muss, no fuss.

 

Change starts with us…

 

Each day we make small choices that can either negatively or positively impact our environment. If all work towards using fewer plastic straws we can make a significant difference in the health of the planet. When all of us come together with a common goal, you would be amazed at the impact that we can make.

Stainless steel cutlery, silverware, and drinkware is rising to popularity for its durability, strength, ease of use, and eco-friendliness. By making a stainless steel straw a token accessory you take with you, you could inspire others to do the same.

The Steel Industry & American Urbanization

When the Industrial Revolution rolled around, influential changes began to dominate the American landscape. Before the 1870s, only two cities in the United States held more than 500,000 inhabitants—New York City and Philadelphia. At the time, New York City had 813,669 inhabitants while Philadelphia had 565,529 inhabitants. The Industrial Revolution brought about an explosive reorganization of society. Cities grew and the skyscrapers shot up like seeds from the ground.

The Era for the Industrial Revolution

Between 1880 up until 1929, America’s beating heart became the industries within it — like the steel industry. Society used the steel industry to improve virtually every aspect of the nation: cars, boats, even the telegraph.

The First Transcontinental Railroad, and other railways, were primarily made out of iron at the time. These railways were converted upon the introduction of steel manufacturing. Steel rails were sturdier and more durable, therefore lasting much longer. Modern-day railway tracks are still made out of steel, although contemporary production processes are different.

Dividing the Tasks of Labor

The Industrial Revolution was further propelled by the invention of the assembly line in 1913. When Henry Ford introduced this new system to the factories, industry in the United States exploded. Before, it took over 12 hours to build a single car. A car could now be built in two hours and 30 minutes.

This contributed to even further growth. You could find good-paying manual labor in the city, causing many rural farmers to migrate. During this time, Birmingham, Alabama began to boom. It was a center for iron and steel manufacturing, drawing laborers from all over.

Booming Cities across America

The urban landscape became a key driver of industry. Young and aspiring businessmen flocked to the city because it became a source of wealth. There, they could raise the necessary capital for their business ventures.

As a result, cities became central business hubs. New York City grew in epic proportions. The population exploded from slightly over 500,000 people to 3.5 million individuals from 1850 up until 1900. Chicago, America’s heartland, became one of the fastest growing cities in the nation during the last half of the 19th century. This city expanded at an absolutely rapid pace from only 100,000 people to over 1.2 million.

Structural steel aided in the construction of high-rise skyscrapers. This new, stronger kind of steel was a revolutionary product. Structural steel was also excellent for fireproofing. This kind of steel was different than the Bessemer steel used for railroad tracks. Industrialist Andrew Carnegie jumped on the structural steel bandwagon. He redesigned his factories, and replaced his Bessemer converters with the open-hearth process.

Structural steel was higher quality, and a key player in the construction of new skyscrapers. By 1920, more Americans were living in cities than in the countryside thanks to these developments. The steel industry was a major player in making this happen. Its contributions to construction and infrastructure led to increased connectivity and productivity.

Stainless Steel: Elegance and Excellence in Sculpting and Statuary

One hallmark of a true artist is being able to create beauty out of anything. While certain artists might have preferences for one medium over another, there are some that never go out of style. Clay is definitely one of these, and paint is another. Metal statues and sculptures have also always had a place in traditional art. Recently, stainless steel has grown in popularity. Artists have crafted a number of impressive pieces in this material.

 

How Does Stainless Steel Become Art?

Art can be anything, or come from anywhere, and stainless steel is no exception to that rule. By its very nature, stainless steel offers a level of durability and versatility that is hard to find. Because there are so many options for finishes, it’s possible to create all kinds of art, ranging from the Dublin Spire to Balloon Dog.

Polishing a piece to a bright gloss, also called a mirror finish, can take days or weeks. As a result, it will help the piece last for a long time. Both Balloon Dog and Chicago’s Cloud Gate make use of mirror finishes. The original Balloon Dog is also an excellent example of the finishing technique for a drastically different color effect. An artist has many options when using stainless steel, making it a popular choice for sculptures and statues around the world.

 

How Does Stainless Steel Art Benefit a City?

The method of finishing a stainless steel piece can ensure its durability and longevity to a remarkable degree. Even if an artist decides to go the route of steel brushing, sandblasting, or heat treatments, the piece will still be sturdier than one made of marble or clay. A paint finish would bubble and peel. Fortunately, with the variety of options available for stainless steel, a paint finish is not necessary at all.

Given that stainless steel can be manufactured in several different shapes and sizes, and easily joined together, this also makes it a more cost-efficient alternative. A larger piece needs to be lugged around as one solid whole. Or, it can be carefully taken apart and reconstructed on site. This could leave noticeable marks behind. Many praise stainless steel for its reshaping abilities. With a little grinding and sanding after the welding, the piece will look like one finished whole.

 

Where Can I Find Stainless Steel Art?

There are stainless steel pieces everywhere. From The Seed Sculpture in Manchester to the Sibelius Monument in Finland, creative works by creative artists are everywhere you go. Depending on the artist, different techniques will come into play. Depending on the location, different grades of steel come into use.

For example, the Cones in Canberra, Australia might require a higher grade of steel than Turning the World Upside Down in Jerusalem. The Cones are a little closer to nature, and therefore more likely to deal with damaging elements. While pieces like News might have run at the forefront of the longer lasting steel sculpture trend, the evolution of the steel industry, and what we can do with it, has given rise to several alloys. Each of these is much more resistant to corrosion than the last.

As a sculpture trend, stainless steel is here to stay — and stay beautiful. It’s been a game changer from its earliest appearances, focusing on outlasting the environment, to the newer pieces that take advantage of modern technology.

Chinese Steel Industry Faces Huge Boom

In the recent past, China’s stock market has been dwindling due to the trade wars with the US. However, steel prices have been indicating a positive state of the economy. Although China is transforming from manufacturing to consumption economy, steel is still an essential part of the economy. For instance, Baosteel, one of the biggest steel manufacturing companies in the country, reported a sixty-two percent year-over-year increase in profits.

The steel market seems undisturbed by the numerous tariffs, internal economic issues, and government controls. For instance, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), steel production increased by 7.2% in July. Production in 2018 is ahead by 6.3% compared to the records set last year. The growth may have slowed slightly in August as the purchasing managers’ index (PMI) reduced by 1.4% but stayed above fifty percent.

According to the World Steel Association, China accounted for 49.2% of the global steel manufacturing. Recent data indicates that China accounts for 50.7% of the world steel production. China’s output in a month is more than the United States produces in a year.

 

Lower Production, Higher Prices

 

In the past three years, the government has been running a campaign to reduce production capacity. This is in attempts to curb environmental pollution. Also, the overproduction has been blamed for low prices and losses. In 2016, the government cut the annual production by sixty-five million tons. In 2018, by fifty million tons.

This year, the government is looking forward to cutting output by thirty million tons. Apart from the cut in production, the government has also been issuing temporary suspensions in the Beijing area. This is to prevent steel factories from producing fog during the heating seasons. However, the suspension that could have cut production by fifty percent is not deterring overall production. This is because production doubled in other parts of the country.

On the other hand, the downsizing and production cut attempts by the government caused steel prices to soar. Some steelmakers increased their production to take advantage of the rise in prices. According to the China Iron and Steel Association (CISA), there was a 14.6% increase in prices at the end of July.

 

Improved Production Process

 

Another reason for the increase in production is improved efficiency. Nowadays, most steel mills around the country use better grades of iron ore and more scrap steel to reduce emissions.

The good fortunes witnessed by the steel industry may be a headache to the government. Information from the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) pointed out that this year’s targeted cut in production might be difficult if the profit margins continue to grow. However, the government has been able to cut capacity of 24.7 million tons in the first seven months of 2018.

There have been reports that some millers may restart outdated production methods to take advantage of the soaring prices. For instance, many mills that had closed two years ago have recently started reopening due to the increase of steel prices in the market. Research conducted by the Greenpeace East Asia indicated that 73% of the increased capacity came from factories that were presumed idle. There has not been an official government audit to explain the increased production despite the measure put in place to cut output.

Efforts by the government to cut production are faced with a lot of challenges. For example, there have been reports that the price does not control the production of steel. Overproduction is continuing whether the prices are high or low. Additionally, steel production has been thriving even when the GDP is declining.