- Engineers at the Netherlands Eindhoven University of Technology have produced the world's first 3-D printed concrete bridge, according to The Guardian.
- Intended for cyclists, the 26-foot-long bridge took three months to print out its approximately 800 layers of reinforced, pre-stressed concrete material.
- The bridge is being touted as more sustainable than its traditionally constructed concrete counterparts, as the 3-D printing method reduced the amount of concrete necessary to build the structure.
Though it has been tested only sporadically in recent years, 3-D printing is another technology the industry is monitoring closely. With Chinese company WinSun's successful printing and assembling of fully functional bathrooms and a Dubai team's completion of the world's first 3-D printed office building, engineers across the globe are working to make the mass production of such large-scale components and assemblies a reality.
But 3-D printing isn't confined to the built world. Earlier this year, researchers from Oak Ridge National Laboratory revealed the world's first fully functional 3-D printed excavator. Only components such as its cab, hydraulic oil reservoir and steel boom, among others, were 3-D printed, though the machinery marks a significant step forward in expanding the technology's application in the industry.
It's unlikely that 3-D printed equipment will hit the mainstream market anytime soon, but the technology behind it is only expected to grow. A 2015 forecast from technology research firm Gartner found that global sales of 3-D printers are set to increase to $14.6 billion by 2019.
More still, a separate Research and Markets study found that the market for 3-D printed concrete is expected to reach a value of $56.4 million by 2021. Researchers determined the figure by hypothesizing that, as global construction increases, concrete will likely provide the greatest opportunity for adopting 3-D printing technology.
3-D printing has the potential to disrupt traditional building practices significantly, from shortened project schedules, to reduced material and labor costs. Still, some warn that the technology could also further strain contractors' ability to find workers able to operate and work alongside the technology.