UAE’s National Innovation Committee has unveiled plans to print an entire office building in Dubai using a 3D printer.
The use of a printer to make three-dimensional objects from a digital design has been used mostly for making small models of development projects, although there are plans for robot 3-D printers to build a bridge across a canal in Amsterdam.
The innovative project is the first major initiative of the 'Museum of the Future' launched in March this year by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed which is scheduled to open in 2017.
Dubai's one-storey prototype building, with about 185 sq m (2,000 sq ft) of floor space, will be printed layer-by-layer using a 20-foot tall printer. It would then be assembled on site in a matter of weeks. The office will then serve as temporary headquarters of the ‘Museum of the Future’ and will be big enough to accommodate 16 people.
Mohamed Al Gergawi, UAE Minister of Cabinet Affairs and Chairman of the National Innovation Committee, said in a statement: “We are keen to use the latest technologies to simplify people’s lives and to serve them better. This project is part of our overall innovation strategy to create new designs and new solutions in education, healthcare and cities.”
Experts say 3-D printing in full-scale building could cut construction time by up to 70 per cent, labour costs by up to 80 per cent and construction waste by up to 60 per cent. The furniture and interior detailing will also be 3-D printed. The project will use reinforced concrete, gypsum and plastic.
Al Gergawi said: “The idea of 3D printing buildings was once a dream, but today it has become a reality. This building will be a testimony to the efficiency and creativity of 3D printing technology, which we believe will play a major role in reshaping construction and design sectors. We aim to take advantage of this growth by becoming a global hub for innovation and 3D printing. This is the first step of many more to come.”
The technology could also be used to provide almost immediate housing after natural disasters such as earthquakes.
WinSun Global, the Chinese company leading the Dubai project, introduced its technology last year when it printed 10 concrete homes in a day in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, then assembled them in Shanghai. The project is a tie-up between Dubai and Winsun. Other major firms involved in the project include Gensler, Thornton Thomasetti and Syska Hennessy.