Is it any surprise anymore when Dubai announces plans to 3D print something new? Yes and no, I’d say – we’ve grown used to frequent announcements from the city-state about plans for 3D printed homes, or 3D printed laboratories, or 3D printed everything else, but we still can’t help but be astonished when Dubai goes public with yet another plan to 3D print something unprecedented. Like, for example, a skyscraper. Yes, Dubai is now planning to erect the world’s first 3D printed skyscraper, and while it’s incredible to think that this day has come, it’s not at all shocking that it’s happening in Dubai.
As a rule, the words “world’s first” always get my defenses up, because everyone likes to claim to be the first ever in the history of the world to produce something, even if a quick Google search will show that it’s already been done before. When Dubai says it, though, it’s probably true. The United Arab Emirates city-state is already home to the world’s first 3D printed office building, and while other governments have discussed the future of 3D printed skyscrapers, no one has actually done it yet. Last year the government of Dubai announced its plan to make at least a quarter of the city’s buildings 3D printed by 2030, so it really isn’t much of a shock to learn that at least one of those 3D printed buildings will be a high-rise.
Still, though, the very thought of an actual 3D printed skyscraper boggles the mind – we’re still trying to come to terms with 3D printed tiny houses. Not a whole lot of detail has been released about Dubai’s skyscraping plans yet, but the construction will be carried out by Cazza Construction Technologies, a startup that first came to our attention just a few months ago. The company has developed a system of 3D printing buildings at large scale and at high speed with the use of giant robotic 3D printers, and the skyscraper will be printed with the help of cranes that have added units specifically designed for 3D printing at heights of 80 meters and higher. All of the major structural components of the building, including the steel rebar reinforcement, will be 3D printed.
“When we first thought of implementing 3D printing technologies, we were mostly thinking of houses and low-rise buildings,” said Cazza CEO Chris Kelsey. “Developers kept asking us if it was possible to build a 3D printed skyscraper. This led us to begin researching how we could adapt the technologies for taller structures. Through our technologies, we will be able to build architecturally complex buildings at never-before seen speeds. It is all about economies of scale where the initial high technology costs will reduce as we enter the mass-production phase.”
In December, Cazza Construction Technologies entered into an agreement to assist Dubai in the implementation of its 3D printed construction plans. The start date for the skyscraper project has not yet been released, nor has the ultimate height of the building, but according to Cazza’s Chief Operating Officer Ferndando De Los Rios, the company is currently modifying their technology in preparation for the project.
“The crane printing system can be easily adopted with existing cranes which means we don’t have to build cranes from scratch. We are adding new features to make it adaptable to high wind speeds along with the use of our layer smoothing system that creates completely flat surfaces,” he said. “You won’t know its 3D printed.”
The early renderings for the skyscraper don’t resemble any skyscraper I’ve ever seen, other than on the cover of fantasy novels; the spiraling needle-like look of the design is a reminder that 3D printing isn’t bound by the same restrictions as conventional construction methods. According to Cazza mechanical engineer Xavier Hernand, there are “vast possibilities” in terms of materials as well, going far beyond traditional concrete and steel.
Cazza Construction Technologies has generated a tremendous amount of buzz in the construction industry, and has already received several offers of buyouts and investments. Recently, an unnamed Saudi developer offered to buy the company for $38.6 million. Kelsey, who was only 19 when we spoke to him in November, says he has no plans to sell the company at the moment, but is open to investments. Right now, they’re focused on Dubai.
“We believe in and admire HH Sheikh’s Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s 10X vision and shall do everything we can to bring further world-changing innovation,” Kelsey said. “We came here to change the world, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”
Discuss in the Dubai forum at 3DPB.com.[Source: Construction Week Online]