Print Me A Bridge

American attorney and Baptist minister, Joseph Fort Newton, once said that “Men build far too many walls and not enough bridges”. The wise man buried deep, deep inside of me can realize that he probably meant that metaphorically, not literally. Nowadays, with the big building of walls by big US superpowers, it’s far more a literal building statistic.

A Professor at the Tsinghua University School of Architecture in Beijing took this statistic out of the hands of man and put it in the hands of the machine. A 3D printer, to be more precise. His name is Xu Weiguo and him and his team erected a 3D 26.3 metre-long, 3.6 metres-wide concrete bridge over a canal in Shanghai earlier this year. Deemed as the longest 3D bridge in the world, the bridge was pieced together by the Tsinghua University School of Architecture’s Zoina Land Joint Research Center for Digital Architecture (JCDA), and built by Shanghai Wisdom Bay Investment Management Company. The bridge, made primarily of polyethylene fibre concrete and admixtures, took 450 hours to build using two 3D printers. They worked away at 146 concrete-units – 44 hollow, 68 pavement filled with white pebbles, and the handrails are made from a further 64 pieces.

Zoina Land Joint Research Center said that: “Compared to a conventional bridge of similar size, its cost is only two-thirds. This is mainly because the printing and construction of the bridge’s main body did not use any templates or reinforcing bars, saving costs significantly.”