WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
In the future all buildings will be 3D printed, but it’s a marathon not a sprint …
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A while ago Dubai’s government were in talks with a company called Cazza to 3D print the world’s first 80 storey skyscraper, but little did they know at the time that the company would eventually collapse after one of the partners “allegedly embezzled funds.” Now though, after 3D printing the world’s biggest building and promising to 3D print more than 25% of all residential new builds by 2030 Dubai might just get its 3D printed skyscraper after Dubai-based real estate developer Pantheon Development revealed it’s weighing up the possibility of 3D printing an entire eleven-storey building.
At present, the company is reported to be in talks with three unnamed US and European construction firms, to discuss the commercial and logistical viability of printing such a massive structure, and if the project does go ahead it’ll fulfil one of Dubai’s long held ambitions.
“We are in talks with three companies from the US and Europe to get their proposals for a G+10 storey building,” explained Kalpesh Kinariwala, Chairman of Pantheon Development. “We have to make sure that the project is scalable, as without that factor, building one stand-alone building will make it costly and commercially unviable.”
Based on the edge of Dubai’s Umm Al Sheif residential area, Pantheon Development is a developer of luxury homes, villas, apartments and penthouses. Ordinarily, the firm builds these lavish housing communities using normal construction methods, but, as we’ve seen elsewhere in the world, it’s now said to be weighing up the adoption of 3D printing for the first time.
The buildings being proposed are reported to be ‘G+10’ structures, or ground floor plus ten stories, making their size and scale unprecedented in the world of concrete 3D printing. As a result, only a handful of firms possess technologies capable of erecting something of that magnitude, making it possible to take an educated guess at who could be behind it.
In Europe, Danish 3D printer manufacturer COBOD has established itself as a leader in the field over the last three years, building multiple houses, including a three storey apartment. One of the company’s BOD 2 systems has also been adopted by Elite for Construction & Development, a firm based in the UAE’s neighbouring Saudi Arabia, although there’s nothing to suggest it has since been deployed at scale.
Likewise, in the US, ICON has continually pushed the boundaries of what’s possible with concrete 3D printing, and it recently raised $207 million from US construction giant Lennar to fund the R&D of its technologies. Earlier this year, the company also revealed that it had built four multi-storey buildings in East Austin, before unveiling its next-gen Vulcan machine, but even for ICON, erecting an eleven-storey structure would be extraordinary.
However, despite this, and the fact that the project is only at the evaluation stage, Pantheon Development is actually weighing up the construction of more than one G+10 building, if contractors can prove that 3D printing is appropriately scalable.
If the company’s discussions do indeed turn into concrete plans, the next step for the project will be registration with the Dubai Municipality. This is due to a recent decree issued by the UAE’s Prime Minister Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, which is designed to regulate 3D printing in Dubai’s construction sector, attract leading tech firms and foster economic growth.
Over the last three years, the UAE has turned into a hive of 3D printing activity, as the country has sought to diversify its economy by adopting advanced technologies at scale. Since Immensa Technology Labs first filed a construction 3D printing patent there in 2018, the likes of 3DVinci Creations, ACCIONA and Freyssinet subsidiary Concreative, have each opened UAE-based concrete printing facilities.
Dubai’s Electricity and Water Authority, or ‘DEWA,’ has also invested heavily in 3D printing, and recently deployed the technology to erect an additive manufacturing research lab. Built specifically to house the Emirate’s new rover and drone design facilities, the complex packs a suite of Markforged Metal X machines, for spare part and prototyping applications.
Elsewhere, the Emirate has a history of breaking construction records as well, lending some credence to Pantheon Development’s upcoming plans. Back in 2019, the Dubai Municipality unveiled a 640 sq. meter building project, which was recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records at the time as the world’s largest 3D printed two-storey structure.