MIT researchers have 3D printed a bridge designed by Leonardo da Vinci a little over 500 years ago, which was never built, and again, it was right.
At the beginning of the 16th century, the Ottoman sultan Bayezid II decided to build a bridge linking Constantinople, present-day Istanbul, to the neighboring region known as Galata. At the time, bridges were usually built using a series of semicircular arches. To cross the distance between the two cities, it would have taken at least 10 of these pillars to support the entire structure.
Leonardo da Vinci – already known at the time – had proposed his sketches. But he had imagined something else: a bridge consisting of a single flattened bow – high enough to let sailboats – supported by bases on each side.
An ambitious project
These plans were radically different from others. The structure was also about 280 meters long. Which means that it would have been about 10 times larger than what was done at the time. That’s probably why the sultan did not follow through. He did not want to take any risks, so this bridge was never built.
Curious to know what this structure really was worth, architects and civil engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently came up with the idea of testing it in a miniature version. To do this, they printed it in 3D. And spoiler alert: Da Vinci, again, knew what he was doing.
There are missing notes on these sketches. It is not mentioned what materials Da Vinci was considering to build this bridge. However, researchers have predicted that the only material that can provide sufficient strength is stone. And according to the sketches, all these stones also had to hold together and support each other by simple compression.
To test their hypotheses, the researchers created a replica of the bridge at a scale of 1: 500. A total of 126 blocks of various shapes and sizes, printed in 3D, were needed to complete the structure. And, indeed, this bridge was visibly strong enough without necessarily needing mortar or fasteners between each block.
Researchers even suspect that this structure was strong enough and wide enough to support potential earthquakes. Another brilliance of genius from one of the brightest visionaries and inventors in history.