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3D printing in Dubai

Witteveen+Bos is investing in the development and application of 3D printing techniques in the construction industry, and wants to gain insight into innovative production methods and put them to use in our projects. In mid-2015, we therefore decided to take part in a large-scale study of 3D concrete printing at Eindhoven University of Technology (TU/e). This research project is led by Theo Salet, professor of Concrete Structures at TU/e and senior partner at Witteveen+Bos.

The results of the scientific research are already being applied in practice. Last year, for instance, Witteveen+Bos was commissioned to help engineer the world’s first on-site 3D printed building: an R&D laboratory for the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA). Following a call for tenders, the project was awarded to local contractor Convrgnt, which commissioned the Dutch start-up company CyBe Construction B.V. to carry out 3D concrete printing on-site. Witteveen+Bos was responsible for the engineering of the 3D printed components.

The laboratory building will be 12 metres wide, 12 metres long, and 5 metres tall. It will be realised at the construction site using a hybrid production method that combines 3D printing, robotic construction and traditional building methods. This approach has been chosen as the best way to build the structure as efficiently and safely as possible within the short period of time available. Buildings have already been constructed using 3D printing techniques in other parts of the world. However, all of these projects were realised under laboratory or factory conditions. The main challenge in the Dubai project is therefore the application of 3D printing on site, under the unforgiving local climate and weather conditions. In addition, no legislation or standards are currently in place to regulate the engineering of 3D printed components. The laboratory is expected to be completed by mid-2017.

In a follow-up to this project, Witteveen+Bos and Dubai-based contractor Dubox have joined forces to develop printable concepts that can be applied in the local construction industry. The joint venture is working on a number of innovative solutions, including a mobile 3D concrete printing laboratory that was showcased at the first Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit, which was held from 27 through to 30 March 2017 in Abu Dhabi. The summit opening was attended by various dignitaries including Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Emir of Dubai.

+ jordy.vos@witteveenbos.com