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3D printing opens new horizons for construction sector in UAE

Concrete 3D printing is moving to an industrial scale in the United Arab Emirates with the birth of AED 6m Concreative Middle East - a partnership between Freyssinet, e-construct and Draw Link Group.

Speaking to TechRadar Middle East, Khalil Doghri, general manager of Concreative Middle East, said the whole idea came from the message sent by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in 2016 which is to turn 25% of all buildings in Dubai to be 3D printed by 2030 and to become a hub.

The Office of the Future in Dubai, the first 3D-printed office in the world, was designed by e-construct and printed in China. According to research firm MarketsandMarkets, the global 3D concrete printing market is estimated to grow from $1.2 million in 2018 to $1.48 billion by 2023, at an annual growth rate of 317.3 per cent.

Doghri believes that this is the first large-scale concrete 3D printer in the Middle East and by making this tool available to the industry; architects and designers now have the means to design and produce complex concrete architectural and structural elements.  “This new technology consumes less raw materials, are more reactive, cleaner, quieter, less gruelling and much safer,” he said.

“Our focus will be where the conventional method of construction is not possible such as complex architectural designs and we will see more and more complex buildings such as Museum of the Future,” he said.

Moreover, he said the cement-based 3D printing disposes the need for conventional moulds and mass production of customised product, and at the same time, saves cement between 30% and 70% and reduces building lead times.

Daousser Chennoufi, co-founder at Concreative, said that the 3D technology will create new value for designers.  “It will create new possibilities, to think out of the box, create new space and shapes where no one has travelled before. Inevitable house and homes will no longer be shaped by the limitation of the old ways, but they will be occupying different volumes and spaces,” he said.

Doghri said the printer at Concreative was supplied by French-start-up XtreeE which has a six-axis robotised arm capable of manufacturing elements 5 metres long and 3 metres high in successive layers. He sees a bright future for the construction industry owing to the increase in demand for complex structures amid generating less waste and the rise in the number of construction projects at affordable rates.

It is not only the UAE which plays a key role in concrete 3D printing, but even Saudi Arabia is also planning to print one and a half million houses in 3D concrete within 10 years in a rapidly expanding building market. The Kingdom is developing educational zones that group together innovating technology such as 3D printing as well as printed concrete buildings.