Already being used in China to mass produce apartment complexes, 3D printing technology is changing the way people think about housing and construction. Taking up few thousand feet, Dubai – with the help of Cazza Construction – unveiled its plans to “build the world’s first 3D printed skyscraper.”

Dubai’s 3D Printing Vision

On the heels of the government announcing its plans to make at least a quarter of the city’s buildings 3D printed by 2030, Dubai partnered with a construction tech firm known for its vision in the industry. According to a recent article in 3DPrint, “Cazza has developed a system of 3D printing buildings at large scale and at high speeds with the use of giant robotic 3D printers.”

With the help of cranes standing 80 meters tall and designed specifically for 3D printing, Cazza Construction plans on keeping all of the structural elements of a typical skyscraper with one notable exception: building materials. According to Cazza mechanical engineer Xavier Hernand, there are “vast possibilities” in terms of materials as well, going far beyond traditional concrete and steel.

From the magnitude of the project to the technological innovation, this is no small undertaking. “When we first thought of implementing 3D printing technologies, we were mostly thinking of houses and low-rise buildings,” Cazza CEO Chris Kelsey told 3DPrint. “Developers kept asking us if it was possible to build a 3D printed skyscraper. This led us to begin researching how we could adapt the technologies for taller structures.”

3D Printing in China

Without knowing the height of the building or Cazza’s construction start date, it’s difficult to determine how long it would take to erect Dubai’s 3D printed skyscraper. In residential construction, however, projects have been completed in record time. According to Chinese technology company WinSun, who printed 10 houses in 24 hours using a proprietary 3D printer created by Ma Yihe, “3D printing saves 30-60% of the construction waste and reduce labor costs by between 50-80%.” Even more impressive, 3D printing can decrease production times by between 50-70%.

Using Ma’s technology and an oversized 3D printer (20′ x 33′ x 132′), WinSun’s facility was able to prefabricate an 11,840 square foot five-story apartment building at Suzhou Industrial Park located in East China. According to a Xinhua news article, WinSun is able to print a house in a couple of months “using ground construction and industrial waste, such as glass and tailings, around a base of quick-drying cement mixed with a special hardening agent.”

Described “much like how a baker might make a cake,” a CAD design template and computer is used to control the 3D printer’s arm while it creates layers and layers of concrete in whatever pattern you program. Ma’s printer is a quick way of constructing buildings using templates and at the same time, decreasing the need for quarried stone and other materials. The end result: a groundbreaking construction method that is eco-friendly and cost effective.

Cazza Construction Technologies

Much like WinSun’s residential construction projects, speed is one of the key benefits to building Dubai’s skyscraper using 3D printing technology. “Through our technologies, we will be able to build architecturally complex buildings at never-before-seen speeds,” Kelsey said. “It is all about economies of scale where the initial high technology costs will reduce as we enter the mass-production phase.”

Cazza Construction is an impressive company, to say the least. Since agreeing to take on the skyscraper project, they’ve developed an innovative printing system that retrofits on existing cranes – eliminating the need to build 3D printing cranes from scratch. After turning down a Saudi developer’s $38.6 million offer to buy the company, Cazza Construction has been focused on upgrading their technology for the sake of building the world’s first 3D printed skyscraper.

As Kelsey so eloquently told 3DPrint, “We believe in and admire HH Sheikh’s Mohammed bin Al Maktoum’s 10X vision and shall do everything we can to bring further world-changing innovation.”