Future Perfect: Take a Look at the World’s First 3D-Printed Building

Another man-made wonder in Dubai.  
Art Dubai 3D building
It took 18 people roughly 19 days to build the office of the Dubai Future Foundation, the first fully functional 3D-printed building in the world. Photo: Government of Dubai Media Office/Facebook

In May, the temporary headquarters of the Dubai Future Foundation emerged layer by layer from a 3D printer with a robotic arm made in China. Hello, 21st century.

The office, which comprises many small structures, is fitting for an organisation like Dubai Future Foundation whose mission it is to develop smart technology for the U.A.E., including driverless cars by 2030. It is spread across 2,600 sq.ft. in the gardens of Emirates Towers, a complex in the city’s financial district that has been an architectural icon since it was completed in 2000.

For the Dubai office, the UAE partnered with Winsun Global, a Chinese company that has been using 3D-printing to construct homes. Even the furniture in the office has been 3D printed . The plants, however, are real. Photos: Government of Dubai Media Office/Facebook.

For the Dubai office, the U.A.E. partnered with Winsun Global, a Chinese company that has been using 3D-printing to construct homes. Even the furniture in the office has been 3D printed. The plants, however, are real. Photos: Government of Dubai Media Office/Facebook.

The Dubai office has put 3D printing in the front yard. So far, the technology has been used to create smaller-scaled wonders like designer sunglasses, Nike’s football boots, and medical implants like a transplant jaw. But it is growing every day, and already making inroads in the travel industry. Some Airbus and Boeing planes use 3D-printed parts. In June, Airbus presented the world’s first aircraft that is entirely 3D-printed (except for electrical components)—and can fly. Many consider the windowless, unmanned, mini-plane a beacon for air travel as it lessens fuel consumption and industrial waste, and promises to cut labour and production costs. Airbus estimates that entirely 3D-printed planes could be in the skies by 2050. Meanwhile, NASA is exploring the possibility of 3D-printing food for astronauts in space.

Dubai Future Foundation’s office (and the furniture within) was cranked out in thin strips by a printer that measured 20ft high, 120ft long, and 40ft wide. It was made using a mix of cement and construction material designed in the U.A.E. and the US. Most significantly, it is the first fully functional building of its kind, and the prototype of the Dubai’s architectural future. The Ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced the emirate’s plans to have 25 per cent of Dubai’s construction 3D-printed by 2030.

Dubai Future Foundation’s office took just 19 days to set up and shaved off an estimated 50 per cent of the labour cost for the office—magic numbers for this desert paradise of man-made marvels.

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    Saumya Ancheri is Assistant Web Editor at National Geographic Traveller India. She loves places by the sea, and travels to shift her own boundaries. She tweets as @Saumya_Ancheri.

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