Home » Lebanese firm unveils 3D printed bridge that can design itself

Lebanese firm unveils 3D printed bridge that can design itself

by Sion Geschwindt
Lebanese firm unveils 3D printed bridge that can design itself

Dar Al-Handasah, a Lebanon-based engineering firm, has collaborated with Autodesk to create a smart 3D printed bridge that builds and designs itself using 3D printing, robotics, and artificial intelligence (AI). The bridge was unveiled recently at the Autodesk University.

The five-metre bridge’s first prototype was designed in the UAE as part of the engineering firm’s efforts to introduce a safer, more sustainable, and smarter design to the country as a result of its digital capabilities and innovations.

Generative design

Dar built the bridge with Autodesk Fusion 360’s generative design feature. The generative design approach leverages the power of artificial intelligence and the cloud to create designs that adhere to a predefined set of parameters and constraints, algorithmically generating hundreds or even thousands of potential design concepts in a very short period of time.

Dar’s structural team then evaluated the merits of several intriguing design concepts using multi-weighted criteria and placing a high value on the aesthetic value of the designed bridge.

The team moved to the detailed design phase after selecting the final bridge design concept, refining the design, conducting structural validation using third-party tools, and thoroughly examining the bridge’s structural integrity using specialised high-level structural FEA programmes.

Once the pedestrian bridge model was completed, it was fed into a tool path optimisation software and then to the robot for 3D printing.

The manufacturing method employed a robotic arm with a customised end-effector capable of printing with both standard and sustainable materials, including the FRP material used for this bridge.

Some 70% of the bridge is made from recycled polyethylene terephthalate glycol and glass-fibre, and contains sensors in the deck that monitor strain and temperature, and traditional strain gauges in the support.

The manufacturing system also heavily relies on an intelligent robot that learns what to print and where to print to achieve the optimal bridge for the distance and loads required.

Ghassan Zein, senior associate and digital practice manager, Dar Al-Handasah, said: “In the latest chapter of a significant partnership, Dar collaborated with Autodesk’s research and manufacturing divisions to create the Smart Bridge, a first of its kind in the EMEA region.

“The bridge “converged” the use of generative design, 3D printing, robotics, digital twin technology, and AI to reimagine the future of buildings and large-scale civil structures.

“Dar and Autodesk were able to provide a proof of concept that construction can be more intelligent, safer, and more sustainable.”

Image credit: Dar Al-Handasah

Read next: UK startup unveils ‘world’s first’ tunnel built entirely by robots

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