How 3D-printed construction is taking shape in UAE and Saudi

Dubai is building the world’s first fully functional 3D-printed mosque
With Dubai building the world’s first fully functional 3D-printed mosque, we look at how the technology is taking off in the Middle East and why it matters

Dubai is no stranger to building the ‘biggest’, ‘tallest’ or ‘world’s first’. So it is of little surprise to see the Gulf city stake its claim on building the world’s first fully functional 3D-printed mosque. 

Construction of the mosque, which will feature a floor area of 2,000sqm and will accommodate 600 worshippers, will begin this October and will take four months with a further 12 months to fit out. 

The Department of Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities has said that three workers will operate the 3D robotic printer which will print 2sqm every hour using raw materials and a concrete mix. 

This marks the fourth 3D printing world first for the city, which has bagged Guinness World Record titles for the world’s first 3D-printed commercial building and first 3D-printed lab, and is the latest step in Dubai’s 3D Printing Strategy – to harness the technology for the good of humanity and position the emirates as a world leader in the field by 2030. 

Construction of the 3D-printed mosque will take four months

UAE's 3D Printing Strategy

Unveiled in 2016, the Dubai 3D Printing Strategy aims to exploit technology for the service of humanity, develop the country into a leading 3D printing manufacturing hub, and ensure 25% of buildings in Dubai are based on 3D printing technology by 2030.

As part of this strategy, the UAE has launched the 3D Printing Strategic Alliance, the first initiative of its kind in the world that creates a comprehensive network of government entities, academia and 3D printing companies not just in the UAE, but globally. 

The United Arab Emirates has a number of advantages that make it well-suited for this technology, including a hot climate that is ideal for 3D printing concrete, a strong construction industry, and a government that is supportive of innovation. 

Dubai is already well on its way to positioning itself as a 3D printing hub, having secured three previous world firsts. 

World firsts for the UAE in 3D printing

Dubai Municipality and DEWA both bagged Guinness World Record titles for the world’s first 3D-printed commercial building (largest 3D-printed two-storey structure, at a height of 9.5m), and first 3D-printed lab, respectively. 

While the Dubai Future Foundation’s Office of the Future, now home to DFF’s Dubai Future Academy, is the world’s first 3D-printed office – and now operates as a knowledge hub that aims to prepare leaders with the skills to understand and adopt this emerging technology.

Created with just one printer measuring 20 feet high, 120 feet long and 40 feet wide, the building – which took 17 days to print, two days to install, and three months to build – used 50% less manpower than conventional buildings of a comparable size and produced 60% less construction waste.

And herein lies the main benefit of 3D printing, a reduction in energy and conservation of the planet. 

The world's first 3D-printed lab, part of the R&D centre at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park

Saving costs and saving the planet

American University of Sharjah and University of Sharjah scientists found that constructing the 3D-printed house created little more than half the carbon emissions from building a conventional one.

3D printing construction can reduce waste by up to 90%, as there is no need for cutting or sawing materials, and also uses up to 50% less energy, as there is no need for on-site emissions from heavy machinery or transportation of materials. 

Materials are also used more efficiently, as the printer creates structures that are perfectly tailored to their intended use, while buildings are far more durable, as they are printed with a single material that is free of weak points. 

Costs are cut too with 3D construction, thanks to less labour, materials and time. The Office of the Future took just 17 days to print and two days to install, significantly faster than traditional construction methods, and involved 50% less labour cost than conventional construction. 

The benefits are magnified further still when you consider the regional construction boom, not just in the UAE but also in neighbouring nation Saudi Arabia, with both countries leading the Middle East’s construction boom with a pipeline of US$1.36bn of projects under development. 

Saudi hot on Dubai’s heels on the 3D printing front

Which is why Saudi too is getting in on the 3D printing action. Last year, the Kingdom gave birth to the world’s tallest 3D-printed building.

Constructed by leading Saudi real estate developer Dar Al Arkan, using a COBOD 3D construction printer, the 3-storey, 9.9m-tall villa was printed in just 26 days, required just three workers, demanded less energy, and used sustainable eco-friendly cement, with 99% of the concrete materials used sourced locally.

The construction took place on-site and in the height of the summer without any cooling equipment proving that the technology is capable of printing homes year-round in a desert climate. 

The villa has nine solar panels on the roof, which generate enough electricity to power many of the villa's systems, including lighting and heating, while heat-reflecting nano-technology was used to paint the exterior walls, making the villa up to 40% more heat-resistant than traditional buildings. 

In addition, the exterior of the house is four times stronger than any regular-built one.

This 3D-printing debut is in line with the Kingdom’s VIsion 2030, as it looks to diversify its economy and up the ante on its real estate sector by integrating the latest trends and technologies.

“The introduction of 3D construction printing enables us to focus on greater flexibility of design, strengthen productivity and achieve higher cost efficiency,” says Wael Al Hagen, 3D construction printing project manager at Dar Al Arkan. 

The developer is now building its second villa, and looks set to ramp up regional competition on the 3D-printing front.

With Dubai claiming construction of the world’s first-ever 3D-printed Mosque, what is Saudi left to print next? Hotel? Airport? Hospital? Watch this 3D printing space.

The world's tallest 3D-printed building, a 3-storey villa in Saudi constructed by leading developer Dar Al Arkan

The villa has nine solar panels on the roof, which generate enough electricity to power many of the villa's systems, including lighting and heating, while heat-reflecting nano-technology was used to paint the exterior walls, making the villa up to 40% more heat-resistant than traditional buildings. 

In addition, the exterior of the house is four times stronger than any regular-built one.

This 3D-printing debut is in line with the Kingdom’s VIsion 2030, as it looks to diversify its economy and up the ante on its real estate sector by integrating the latest trends and technologies.

“The introduction of 3D construction printing enables us to focus on greater flexibility of design, strengthen productivity and achieve higher cost efficiency,” says Wael Al Hagen, 3D construction printing project manager at Dar Al Arkan. 

The developer is now building its second villa, and looks set to ramp up regional competition on the 3D-printing front.

With Dubai claiming construction of the world’s first-ever 3D-printed Mosque, what is Saudi left to print next? Hotel? Airport? Hospital? Watch this 3D printing space.

Share

Featured Articles

SAP creates new EMEA region and announces new President

SAP has announced it has appointed a new President for a newly-created EMEA region, aiming to make the most of the opportunities of cloud and AI technology

How SAP is facilitating continuous business transformation

Technology giant SAP has expanded its portfolio with the acquisition of LeanIX, a leader in enterprise architecture management (EAM) software

Siemens and Microsoft: Driving cross-industry AI adoption

To help businesses achieve increased productivity, Siemens and Microsoft are deepening their partnership by showcasing the benefits of generative AI

Sustainability must become central to corporate strategy

Sustainability

The endless benefits of putting your people first

Leadership & Strategy

Working from anywhere: SAP uncovers secret life of employees

Human Capital