The very first of a new generation of bridges will be installed in a Rotterdam park. The 3D printed bridge, made from ‘circular’ composites, is the result of a collaboration between the contractor Royal HaskoningDHV, DSM, and City of Rotterdam.
While composite bridges are not new – there are already over 600 of them installed in the Netherlands – up until now they have all been built in the traditional fashion, using moulds.
The new footbridge, which will be developed strictly in line with the highest standards of safety for FRP bridge design, is the first to be built via 3D printing.
“This is a step change which signifies a collective effort to bring innovation from idea to realisation and ushers in a new era of sustainable design and bridge functionality,” said Maurice Kardas, Business Development Manager at Royal HaskoningDHV.
The city of Rotterdam infrastructure experts in composite bridges will be closely involved in the design and build process. The design also makes it possible to incorporate sensors into the bridge to create a digital twin of the bridge. These sensors can predict and optimise maintenance, ensuring safety and extending the life span of the bridge.
The footbridge will be produced from DSM’s Arnite material, a short glass fibre reinforced thermoplastic PET, which – as a thermoplastic - can reportedly either be ground up at the end of life and re-used for 3D printing, or chemically recycled for use in future bridges or other 3D printed structures.
The bridge is designed for sustainability, in other words, according to the principles of reduce, re-use and recycle. “We minimise the amount of material we use, we design structures that can be easily picked up and relocated or expanded when needed - fit for future,” a spokesman said.
“The 3D printed FRP footbridge as a circular composite aligns with our city’s ambitious sustainability targets to reduce carbon footprint and promote liveability and we are proud to be the first city to test, print and install it,” declared Mozafar Said, asset manager at the City of Rotterdam.
“We see the use of composite bridges as a smart solution to replacing our older constructions. With more than 1000 bridges in Rotterdam, we are constantly looking to push the boundaries to develop the next generation of bridges which will be more sustainable and circular with lower maintenance and lifecycle costs.”
To which Patrick Duis, senior application development specialist Additive Manufacturing at DSM added: “The printed circular composite bridge enables the transition to a more sustainable and circular type of bridges with minimal wear and tear. Now that we have the new circular composite of recyclable source material along with the required performance properties available to us, we can start taking the environment-friendly design of the infrastructure to the next level.”
The 6.5-meter footbridge will replace the current wooden structure that was installed in 1975. It is scheduled to be installed and in use by the end of 2020.