When the average person thinks of 3D printing, you might think of simple DIY home projects where you can 3D print little gadgets, custom made jewelry, knick knacks and whatnot. However in terms of commercialization, over in the Netherlands it seems that researchers at the Eindhoven University of Technology are putting together a bridge for cyclists using 3D printed reinforced concrete (via Engadget).
So why 3D printing instead of more traditional engineering methods? For starters it seems that there is a “green” reason for using 3D printing, which is that whenever concrete cement is produced, it releases CO2. So by being able to print exactly what you need instead of pouring concrete into molds will cut down on those CO2 emissions, not to mention the flexibility when it comes to being able to 3D print any shape you want, versus using molds where changing it means getting a new mold made.
Another benefit to 3D printing is that the steel reinforcement cables can be printed at the same time. This means that the pieces produced can be “pre-stressed” for additional stability, and since no one wants to read about a bridge collapsing, this is good news. The construction is expected to begin in September, and so far researchers have tested it out by building a 1:2 scale model that was capable of holding a 2,000kg load.