The Printing of 3D Buildings in Dubai

Sleek, modernistic, and a fraction of the cost of traditional construction, Dubai has successfully created its first completely 3D Printed Building. While other companies have attempted such a feat, they have had to use a combination of traditional printing, framing, and other construction methods to achieve the task. The Office of the Future is the first to be built exclusively with 3D Printed materials. Though the project was constructed from various parts to make the whole, the building was only fabricated from 3D Printed sections.

About the building process

The Office of the Future was created using various sizes of Concrete 3D Printers. These included both a large 20 x 120 x 140 foot (6 x 36 x 12 meters) printer, larger than most commercial or industrial options available, as well as smaller 3D printers. While the larger printer was used primarily for the exterior of the building, the smaller building components were made using the mobile device. This expedited the process to an amazing 17 day fabrication which included the printing and fabrication of the shell and core.

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Picture acquired from newatalas.com

It should be understood that the process was NOT constructed onsite. Yes, the building was assembled on site and there were a few components printed at that location. However, the Dubai government has stated that the pieces were constructed offsite and then assembled by a 7 member crew, plus the instillation crew (electricians and ventilation contractors etc), onsite after it was printed.

How can 3D Printing of a Building be possible?

Printing a 3D building is a combination of having exceptional 3D CAD Modelers as well as having a combination of various types of revolutionary 3D Printers. The process gets rather complex in portions of the conceptualization stages. For example, the building will need to be designed in a multi-disciplinary software, such as AutoDesk Revit, to ensure that it is fully coordinated with no scaling issues, compromising of vertices, edges and faces, and it has as close to zero clashes of services using ‘clash detection’. Secondly, once the building is fully coordinated within the 3D Model, it is imperative that each discipline’s services are split up in their appropriate layers for organization and future group extract for printing. Floors need to be on one layer, walls another, windows, etc. While each component may need to be printed individually, some components, such as the walls, will need to be fabricated all at once using the extremely large concrete 3D Printers. Once all components are organized and saved as an .stl, or similar, 3D printable object, it is only a matter of having the right supplies and the appropriate sized printer to complete the task.

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Even a simple box style log cabin would require layering, as you can see in the example. Image provided by Siclari Studios

Strategies for the future

Dubai has strategies in place to be the world leader in 3D Printing. According to Gulf Business, the country is planning to 3D Print 25% of its buildings by 2030. Why is this? Due to the low cost of materials as well as a reduced construction time, the country believes that their methodology for building will be sought after globally and will keep Dubai at the forefront of technology. Specifically, the technology which is available to Engineers will spark a demand within the construction industry. When interviewed, the UAE President and Prime Minister, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, stated that the 25% of buildings in Dubai (as is the goal) would create economic value and benefits worth billions of dollars. Again, the technology will play a critical role in this development as stated, “Our key goal is to ensure that 25 per cent of buildings in Dubai are based on 3D printing technology by 2030, and we will raise this percentage with the development of global technology as well as growth of market demand.”

Thereby, this industry that they will have a big hand in perfecting, would be in major demand. Facilities would be able to be constructed for a fraction of the cost, raising the number of facilities worldwide which could be constructed in days. Furthermore, as 3D Printers are substantially easier to access in remote areas, locations which were previously inaccessible to development may be able to experience residential and economic development from 3D Printing.

Skyscrapers?

While a complete 3D Printed Skyscraper has not yet been fabricated, the tools and the technology for such a challenge are currently in place. It is only a matter of determining the best way to go about the execution of such a project. As The Office of the Future previously discussed was quite large, it is reasonable to think that a 3D Printer for a sky scraper would need to be equally as large if not larger. The system would need to operate on either a timed crane lift (supervised of course to ensure that each layer is completed and tied to the floor beneath), or a 3D Printer would need to be developed which would allow for the same layering and building of the various stories. And while this may seem a bit far in the future, I would encourage skeptics to look at the progression 3D Printing in Dubai as a whole in recent years.

A 100% fabricated skyscraper may be a few years off. Yet do not be surprised if you see buildings in Dubai utilizing the 3D Printing process to expedite the construction process in the near future.

What does this mean for the construction industry?

The construction industry is globally competitive, requiring new technologies and methodologies to be developed by companies in order to stay relevant. Dubai, with The Office of the Future, has raised new bar for the conceptualization and fabrication of commercial space. Because of the low cost and the quick build of the 3D Printed building, contractors are apt to see an increase in demand on buildings utilizing the 3D Commercial Printer.

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