France’s Plaine Commune Grand Paris has awarded a consortium the design-build contract for a 40-meter pedestrian footbridge made from 3D printed structural concrete, in preparation for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
The consortium consists of civil engineering firm Freyssinet, Levigne and Cheron Architects, computing and artificial intelligence (AI) firm Quadric, building materials specialist LafrageHolcim and large scale 3D printing firm XtreeE.
According to XtreeE, the project is a world-first; bringing together 3D structural concrete printing and Industry 4.0 to form a new “infrastructure typology”.
XtreeE and large scale 3D printing
Founded in 2015, XtreeE is a Paris-based large scale additive manufacturing firm which specializes in concrete construction. Customers can either rent and access XtreeE’s large scale 3D printing systems for their own projects or the firm can assist clients with collaborative design and large scale prototype manufacturing. This was seen in 2018, when XtreeE collaborated with Berlin-based designers Studio 7.5 to create a series of 3D printed concrete woven-patterned benches for a custom-made urban furniture collection.
Most recently, the firm received a major investment from TTWiiN Investment Partners, an investment arm of the US-based engineering consulting firm Thornton Tomasetti, in its latest funding round. XtreeE also announced a partnership with concrete 3D printing company Concreative, based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to open a new 3D printing production unit in Dubai.
The Paris footbridge
Spanning 40 meters, the deck of the pedestrian bridge will be entirely constructed from 3D printed concrete. The consortium aims to use 60% less concrete material in the building of the bridge compared to conventional structures.
The digital design of the structure, coupled with the ability of the footbridge components to be produced in industrial conditions and rapidly assembled on-site, provides the architects involved in the project with greater design freedom. Employing 3D printing to this end will reduce the transportation of parts, and in turn lower costs while eliminating the need for formwork.
According to XtreeE, the project will validate the firm’s 3D printing technology, paving the way for similar projects to be deployed throughout France and in other parts of the world.
3D printing in bridge construction
3D printing is being increasingly utilized in the construction of bridges, viaducts, and other civil engineering projects across the globe.
Last month, the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure, Rijkswaterstaat, selected 10 participants for a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program to present new concepts for a total concept circular viaduct as part of its HONEYCOMB project. Rijkswaterstaat is seeking alternative innovations in this area which will provide a lower environmental impact over the viaduct’s lifespan and utilize technologies such as automated 3D printing.
Prior to this, a new 1.7km viaduct bypass was constructed in Cambridge in the U.K., using 3D printed prototypes and a 3D visualization tool. VolkerFitzpatrick, RMD Kwikform, and Sword Construction UK collaborated on the project which aimed to ease congestion in and around the city.
Elsewhere, a 15.25-meter long pedestrian bridge has been 3D printed in Shanghai’s Taopu Smart City, Putuo District, as part of a project carried out by Chinese construction company Shanghai Mechanized Construction Group Co (SMCC) and Polymaker, a 3D printing filament manufacturer. While in the Netherlands, global nutritional science firm DSM partnered with engineering consultancy firm Royal HaskoningDHV and the City of Rotterdam, to 3D print a footbridge from recyclable source materials. The bridge will be the first to utilize fiber-reinforced thermoplastics (FRPs) for this purpose and will open by the end of 2020.
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Featured image shows a Render of the 40-meter footbridge to be constructed by XtreeE. Image via XtreeE.