The World’s Largest 3D-Printed Building Just Popped Up in Dubai
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The World’s Largest 3D-Printed Building Just Popped Up in Dubai

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By Duncan Nielsen
3D-printing innovators Apis Cor used locally sourced materials to print a two-story building in three weeks’ time.

Apis Cor, whose motto is "we print buildings," just completed the world’s largest 3D-printed building to date—a 6,998-square-foot, 31-foot-tall government facility comprised of concrete, gypsum, and proprietary materials developed by the company.

The company’s 3D printer—which is about the size of a large car—spit out the structure section by section in a total of around 500 hours over the course of a year.  Apis Cor would occasionally pause to adjust the concrete mixture, the printer itself, or simply to run tests. Three workers and a construction crane adjusted the printer around the build site for printing, while traditional construction methods and manual labor were used to create the foundation, set the windows in place, and add roofing and rebar.

The compact printer is highly portable, and it can adapt to a wide range of construction circumstances.

The lightly textured, finished facade is unassuming. The building will provide offices for a government agency.

Dubai served as a proving ground for the technology, which underwent extensive research and development ahead of the build. "The Dubai climate is very harsh—temperature and humidity change significantly even within a day," says company founder and CEO Nikita Cheniuntai. "The material has to behave the same way all the time, despite the changing environmental conditions."

Custom software by Apis Cor guides the printer through the design layer by layer. 

Manually placed rebar reinforces the printed walls. 

The project’s cost has not been disclosed, but affordability, speed, and structural integrity are top priorities for Apis Cor. In 2017, they printed a tiny home outside of Moscow in 24 hours for around $10,000. Soon, they plan to do the same for affordable housing projects in both California and Louisiana.  

Dubai’s harsh climate put Apis Cor’s proprietary materials to the test. They had to withstand changes in temperature and humidity, all under direct sunlight.

The 3D printer is about the size of a large car. Workers used a crane to reposition the printer to create each section of the building.

Earlier this year, Apis Cor partnered with SEArch+ and won NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge. By the end of next year, Apis Cor hopes to make their 3D printing technology available to the masses—they’re planning to sell printers to construction companies seeking to implement custom designs. By 2021, Apis Cor is seeking to open a slew of mini factories to manufacture printing materials.

"[The Dubai] project is a huge step forward in the concrete 3D printing industry," says Cheniuntai. "The next printer will be more reliable and twice as fast."

An aerial view shows the scale of the project during construction.

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