MX3D, an Amsterdam-based metal 3D printing company, has revealed a collaboration with Japanese architecture and engineering firm Takenaka. Together, the companies designed a Structural Steel Connector, which MX3D then 3D printed using its large-scale robotic printing technology, Wire Arc Additive Manufacturing (WAAM).
In the 3D printing world, MX3D is probably best known for its 3D printed canal bridge project, which has been in the works since 2015. More recently, the company has also worked on a number of interesting initiatives, ranging from an aluminum 3D printed bike to an optimized robotic arm in cooperation with Altair.
Its most recent project, in collaboration with Takenaka, demonstrates WAAM’s ability to produce highly customized, engineered steel connectors, which can ultimately be used in the construction of buildings.
The Structural Steel Connector in question was designed by MX3D and Takenaka engineers and integrates topology optimization and specific design constraints. Once designed, the part was 3D printed by MX3D using Duplex stainless steel, an alloy known for its good mechanical properties and corrosion resistance. The result is a hollow steel structure weighing 40 kg which is designed to be filled with concrete post-printing, for a total weight of about 45 kg.
In civil engineering, filling steel tubes with concrete is a fairly common practice known as CFST (Concrete-filled Steel Tube). The process is both effective and economical as adding the concrete core to steel tubes delays the buckling of steel, while the steel structure can bear tensile and bending forces.
The steel connector pictured is a proof of sorts, and now MX3D and Takenaka will move forward with their collaboration, 3D printing bigger versions of the part to be used in building projects. Ultimately, the companies aim to automate the design and production of complex connector structures for the construction industry, leveraging a closed digital design loop and automated production process.
“We’re getting much interest from construction companies after our moonshot project on the MX3D Bridge,” said Filippo Gilardi, Lead R&D Engineering at MX3D. “Together with Takenaka we’ve build this connector to show how the wire arc additive manufacturing (WAAM) technology is ready for industrialization to create unique connectors for complex constructions. This collaboration truly shows that architectural creativity doesn’t have to be limited by manufacturing constraints by further closing the digital design loop.”
Takuya Kinoshita, Project Lead at Takenaka, added: “This innovative manufacturing technology seamlessly connects bits and atoms, dramatically shortens lead times, pushes the boundaries of design, and finally contributes to the creation of more splendid architectural spaces. That is why Takenaka collaborated with MX3D.“