Another such invention, 3-D printing, is now scaling up. All over the world, an impressive diversity of people and organizations, ranging from startups and hobbyists to construction and engineering firms, are successfully prototyping 3-D-printed buildings. The government of Dubai has set a goal of 3-D printing 25% of every new building by 2030. Prototype single-family dwellings have been 3-D-printed in China, Italy, Russia--and Texas. Global infrastructure firm AECOM ACM 2.59% uses 3-D printing to prefabricate jail cells and hospital rooms.
Squeezing a house through a nozzle, like a pâtissier pumping fondant cream from a piping bag, may not be everyone's idea of cutting-edge construction. The glitzy emirate aspires to have a quarter of all new buildings constructed via 3D printing by 2030. Emaar, one of the Arabian Gulf's leading property developers, is heralding its nascent Arabian Ranches III residential project as offering Dubai's first such dwelling. Fabricating a three-dimensional model, or prototype, from a computer-aided design by adding successive layers of material is now standard practice in many industries, ranging from aerospace and architecture to medicine and high-end manufacturing. McKinsey, the consultancy, estimates the technique could have an annual economic impact worth $550 billion by 2025.
Robotics have a mixed history in construction. Some work, especially in prefabricated building offsite, while others have not been successful, particularly when used onsite. However, that may be changing as more equipment companies are exploring the use of robotic technology and applying it to construction. One of the technologies that has shown promise is in the use of robotic arms and gantry equipment for 3D printing of concrete walls. From one of the first, if not the first, completed buildings constructed in this method, an office building in Dubai, to the research work being done by Chinese and U.S. companies as well as others in the European Union, building onsite using what is referred to as additive manufacturing techniques is moving rapidly.
In this Tuesday, May 31, 2016 photo, a woman passes in front of what the United Arab Emirates says is the world's first functional office building made using three-dimensional printer technology, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Dubai's ruler quietly inaugurated the whitewashed buildings last week, not far from the site of a planned "Museum of the Future" that's due to open in 2018. Dubai hopes the project will kick-start its plans to transform the sheikhdom into an incubator for emerging technologies.
A small group of employees in Dubai is starting to move into a new workspace that the emirate says is the world's first functional office building made using three-dimensional printer technology. Looking like a mashup of a "Jetsons" abode and an Apple Store, the compact office was printed out layer by layer over 17 days at a cost of 140,000, said Saif al-Aleeli, the CEO of a government initiative called the Dubai Future Foundation that is behind the project. Products made using 3-D printing are first designed on a computer and then printed out using a variety of materials, including metal, plastic and concrete. But the foundation says its Dubai office is the first "fully functional 3-D printed building," constructed with full services and meant for daily use.