The world’s largest 3D printed building has officially been completed in Dubai.
The two-story 6,900 square foot structure will be used as an office for general administrative functions by the Dubai Municipality.
It was designed in collaboration with Apis Cor, a 3D printing and construction company in Boston.
Scroll down for video
While there is a taller 3D printed building in the world, a five story apartment building Suzhou, China that tops 90 feet, the Dubai building has the largest square footage, according to Singularity Hub.
The building was erected on a pre-cast concrete foundation, atop which the 3D printer built up hollow walls using a fast-drying mixture of recycled construction debris, cement, gypsum, and other compounds.
The 3D printing material is roughly 50 percent lighter than conventional concrete and substantially more durable.
The 3D printer outlined the walls with layers of the material a few inches thick, then slowly built upward, until the walls were at full height.
When the walls were completed, human construction crews took over, installing the roof, cutting out spaces for windows, and filling the walls in with insulation.
With structures under 500 square feet, builders can set the 3D printer on a pre-set track and let it run on its own, but in Dubai the builders had to set up a large crane to move the 3D printer as it built up the structure.
For the Dubai Municipality, the project is just the beginning of what it hopes will be a long commitment to 3D printed buildings.
City officials say they want 25 percent of all new construction to be 3D printed buildings by 2030.
According to city estimates, moving to 3D printing will reduce the labor necessary for building construction by 70 percent and cut construction costs by 90 percent.
‘Construction 3D printing technology is only at the early stages of development,’ Apis Cor CEO Nikita Cheniuntai said, in a statement on the company website.
We do extensive R&D work to make the technology available for mass use. We are thankful for the opportunity to collaborate with Dubai Municipality.’
‘The project gave us unique knowledge and invaluable experience that will help us improve our technology and develop a new version of our 3D printer.’
The company says its next projects will be built in Louisiana and California, and it’s also working to develop an affordable 500 square-foot house that can be 3D-printed in 24 hours.
WHAT IS 3D PRINTING AND HOW DOES IT WORK?
First invented in the 1980s by Chuck Hull, an engineer and physicist, 3D printing technology – also called additive manufacturing – is the process of making an object by depositing material, one layer at a time.
Similarly to how an inkjet printer adds individual dots of ink to form an image, a 3D printer adds material where it is needed, based on a digital file.
Many conventional manufacturing processes involved cutting away excess materials to make a part, and this can lead to wastage of up to 30 pounds (13.6 kilograms) for every one pound of useful material, according to the Energy Department’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee.
By contrast, with some 3D printing processes about 98 per cent of the raw material is used in the finished part, and the method can be used to make small components using plastics and metal powders, with some experimenting with chocolate and other food, as well as biomaterials similar to human cells.
3D printers have been used to manufacture everything from prosthetic limbs to robots, and the process follows these basic steps:
· Creating a 3D blueprint using computer-aided design (CAD) software
· Preparing the printer, including refilling the raw materials such as plastics, metal powders and binding solutions.
· Initiating the printing process via the machine, which builds the object.
· 3D printing processes can vary, but material extrusion is the most common, and it works like a glue gun: the printing material is heated until it liquefies and is extruded through the print nozzle
· Using information from the digital file, the design is split into two-dimensional cross-sections so the printers knows where to put the material
· The nozzle deposits the polymer in thin layers, often 0.1 millimetre (0.004 inches) thick.
· The polymer rapidly solidifies, bonding to the layer below before the build platform lowers and the print head adds another layer (depending on the object, the entire process can take anywhere from minutes to days.)
· After the printing is finished, every object requires some post-processing, ranging from unsticking the object from the build platform to removing support, to removing excess powders.