Dubai moves fast on 3D printed buildings

03 October 2016

Strategy aims for 25 per cent of buildings to be 3D printed by 2030

Dubai’s 3D Printing Strategy, which sets a target of 25 per cent of buildings in Dubai being built using 3D printing technology by 2030, is already changing the way the emirate delivers projects.

The strategy, which was launched by UAE Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum in April, is specifically aimed at improving the efficiency of the construction sector in Dubai.

“This technology will restructure economies and labour markets as the use of unskilled labour will come down compared with the current situation, especially in the construction sector. It will also redefine productivity because the time needed for 3D printing of buildings and products will be 10 per cent of the time taken in traditional techniques,” said Sheikh Mohammed.

Following the launch of the strategy, Dubai quickly opened the world’s first fully functional 3D printed building. Located next to Emirates Towers, the small building is a temporary office for the Dubai Future Foundation, which is a research body tasked with helping the emirate develop new technologies.

Larger projects that utilise 3D printing are planned and are progressing towards construction. The most high-profile is the Museum of the Future scheme planned by local developer Meraas.

Set to open in 2017, the museum will be used to showcase cutting-edge technologies, and with the motto ‘See the future, create the future”, it has been designed to play a leading role in developing a culture of innovation in Dubai and the rest of the UAE. It will be built close to Emirates Towers and Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).

Construction work on the project is expected to start by the end of this year. Meraas received final offers from two shortlisted bidders, the local Alec and Bam of the Netherlands, in late September.

The Museum of the Future will follow another 3D printed project. In late September, Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (Dewa) said it had awarded Convrgnt Value Engineering (LLC) a contract to design and construct the first building in the UAE to be fully printed onsite and the first 3D-printed laboratory building in the world.

The laboratory will be built as part of the research and development centre at the Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum solar park, and will conduct research on drones and 3D-printing technology.

The Roads & Transport Authority (RTA) has also begun to use 3D printing. It says it has started printing parts for ticket vending machines, ticket gates and other areas of the metro system using 3D printing technology.

By working for government and government-related entities, construction companies will be able to develop 3D printing expertise that can then be used by private sector clients for their schemes.

At the moment that may appear to be a long way off, but unlike traditional construction, the pace of change for new technologies is very fast, and with strong government backing many of the bureaucratic barriers that new ideas would normally encounter have been removed.

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