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Swiss architects create inflatable bridge

Two pioneering architects from Zurich have used revolutionary robot welding technology to create a series of inflatable structures made out of sheet metal.

Philipp Dohmen and partner Oskar Zieta used the technique to produce objects that have astounded structural engineers with their stability and strength.

One object is a six metre-long bridge that, although appearing to be a lightweight construction, surpassed expectations when subjected to a loading test.

Dohmen, of ETH Zurich, said: ‘We invited structural engineers and asked them what weight the bridge was likely to bear. None of them believed it would take more than 200 kilos, maximum 300.’

However, the air-filled bridge, which weighed in at 170kg, kept its integrity up to a maximum weight of 1,800kg.

The manufacturing process involves the cutting of individual ultra-thin metal components using a conventional laser before welding them together by the robot and inflating to their final volume using a commercial compressor.

The technique could result in large structures being pre-fabricated, shipped and inflated to operational size on site, cutting distribution costs.

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