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Rotterdam to unveil 3D printed FRP footbridge

The city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands presents a compelling example for the blending of traditional and modern architecture, design and technologies. Because much of the city was destroyed in WWII, Rotterdam had to rebuild, and it has taken an impressively forward-thinking approach throughout the decades. This innovative spirit is exemplified in the city’s latest project: the construction of a 3D printed composite footbridge.

The structure will have the honour of being the world’s first lightweight 3D printed fiber reinforced polymer (FRP) footbridge, and it will be installed at Rotterdam’s Kralingse Bos park. The bridge is being built through a collaboration between Royal HaskoningDHV, science and materials company DSM and the City of Rotterdam.

Another important aspect of the 3D printed footbridge is that it will be constructed based on a circular, sustainable model. That is, the composite bridge, made from recyclable material, is part of the city’s sustainability targets to reduce its carbon footprint and promote liveability.

“The city of Rotterdam is proud to be a leader in the smart and circular use of composite bridges,” commented Mozafar Said, Asset Manager from the City of Rotterdam. “Together with Royal HaskoningDHV and DSM, we are continuing to push the frontiers of sustainability for bridges, using thermoplastics which will enable greater circularity. 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.”

Rotterdam footbridge 3D printed FRP

The composite footbridge could provide a sustainable alternative for future bridge production in the city. “We see the use of composite bridges as a smart solution to replacing our older constructions,” added Said. “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.”

The initial prototype for the circular composite bridge was announced in 2019, and the upcoming structure will showcase the advancement of the project. The bridge itself will be 3D printed from a DSM fiber reinforced thermoplastic called Arnite, which meets the city’s strength and sustainability requirements.

Patrick Duis, Senior Application Development Specialist Additive Manufacturing at DSM, said of the project: “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 new structure will be built following the highest safety standards for FRP bridge design and will be supported by Rotterdam’s infrastructure experts in composite bridges. There is also the potential to include sensors in the finished product to create a digital twin of the footbridge. These sensors could predict and optimize maintenance, to ensure the integrity and safety of the bridge while also helping to extend its lifespan. The completed footbridge is expected to be in use by the end of the year.

“Rotterdam and the Netherlands are ahead of the curve in innovation in infrastructure, particularly in the areas of sustainability and circularity,” concluded Maurice Kardas, Business Development Manager at Royal HaskoningDHV. “By introducing circular composites into their bridge infrastructure, Rotterdam proves once again to be a city ahead of the game. This is a step change which signifies a collective effort to bring innovation from idea to realization and ushers in a new era of sustainable design and bridge functionality.”

To learn about other ways additive manufacturing is tied to more sustainable solutions, read our Sustainability AM Focus 2020 eBook.

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