3D printing allows for quickly creating things ranging from wheelchair ramps to artificial limbs. However, if a goal set by government officials in Dubai comes to pass, people will see a significant increase in the use of 3D printing in that region for buildings and the components inside of them.
A mandate by a government branch called the Dubai Future Foundation states that by 2025, all new Dubai buildings must be at least 25 percent 3D printed. The overarching goal is that Dubai would be “the world’s 3D printing hub” by 2030. Content from the Dubai Future Foundation indicates that the initiative will include several partners, including representatives from sectors involving consumer products and medical devices besides construction.
A Gradual Process That Could Slash Costs
Dubai will begin this initiative in 2019 with the intention of new buildings having at least two percent of all components made through 3D printing in that year. Then, every year after, a two-percentage-point increase is set to bring the city incrementally closer to what some analysts say is an arguably lofty goal.
Achieving the milestone could bring about a 70 percent reduction in construction expenses. Moreover, the costs associated with labor forces could go down by 80 percent.
However, it’s important for people to remember that even though 3D printing is progressively more prevalent in today’s society, it’s still an emerging technology that hasn’t been tested on a substantial number of large structures. So, as-yet-unknown costs could drive up the final amounts construction companies and their clients pay.
A Potential Reduction of Human Rights Abuses
Watchdog organizations report that the improper treatment of humans is a widespread problem in the United Arab Emirates, particularly in the construction industry, and that efforts made aren’t substantially curbing the issue. If Dubai’s ramped-up use of 3D printing helps reduce the threats of injuries and potential fatalities construction workers in the region face, that’s undoubtedly a positive possible outcome of this 3D printing plan.
Dubai Officials May Be Attracted to Various Benefits
3D printing offers advantages to transform industries. For example, as much as 70 percent of the material used for parts fabrication ends up as scrap, but 3D printing does not produce scrap to melt down or reclaim. So, 3D printing could have a positive impact on waste reduction and sustainable building practices.
Additionally, people depend on 3D printing to rapidly produce prototypes for clients to set expectations before progressing further with the construction process. One of the reasons officials in Dubai intend to move full speed ahead with 3D printing is that projects are underway or have been completed to build structures in the city more ambitious than others previously attempted.
For example, a Dubai-based construction firm called Cazza Technologies aims to build a 3D-printed skyscraper in the city and start working on it by 2023. Chris Kelsey, the company’s CEO, also wants to ensure 30 percent of construction businesses in the region use Cazza Technologies’ method by 2022.
Dubai is also home to what is reportedly the first fully functional 3D building. It’s called the Office of the Future and was printed and built in only 17 days. That building, which became a reality in 2016, is another aspect of Dubai’s all-encompassing efforts to become substantially more dependent on 3D printing.
The Dubai Future Foundation believes that 3D printing will take 10 percent of the time needed to make a traditionally constructed building. If future projects are similar to the timeline for the Office of the Future, it’s easy to see how that’s possible.
An Examination of Potential Pitfalls
Some of the positive aspects of Dubai’s increasing use of 3D printing are covered above. But like almost any plan, this one comes with some potential downsides.
For example, the gradual progression of using 3D printing when constructing new buildings seems like a good thing, because it allows construction companies to ease into what’s likely a new process.
However, it remains to be seen how — or even if — Dubai’s officials will verify whether entities are actually moving forward with 3D printing at the appropriate pace. A press release discusses a multi-stage process involving building codes and tests but doesn’t give details yet.
Plus, considering all the components of a building, from the major parts such as the ceilings, walls and windows to smaller things like the light switches and baseboards, it would likely be extremely difficult for an official to confirm that enough of a building was made with 3D printing. A big data platform and intelligent algorithms might help, however.
It Could Be More Costly Than Other Methods at First
A story about plans in Dubai to use 3D printing for housing featured insight from Sameer Lakhani, who is the managing director of Global Capital Partners, a company with its headquarters in Dubai. He mentions that 3D printing is still more expensive than other building methods, especially in these early stages. As such, companies that apply it must be aware of such a limitation up front.
Numerous Specifics to Work Out
Various facets of Dubai’s initiative must be successfully and repeatedly applied to real-life construction projects before it’s possible to conclude if the city’s aims are feasible.
However, the push to incorporate 3D printing more often could at least bring about innovations and new uses faster than expected — and those uses may benefit the 3D printing industry at large.
Written by Kayla Matthews, Productivity Bytes.