Stop press: The world’s top 3D print projects from Dubai to China

As Dubai unveils the world’s first printed office, Vision lists the 3D projects changing the shape of the global horizon

Imagine if solving the world’s housing issues was as simple as assembling a Lego model, its interlocking parts printed, delivered and built to scale in record time, with little waste and labour.

3D printing is now a reality for the future of global cities as the UAE National Innovation Committee and pioneering Chinese company Win Sun have together created the world's first 3D printed office with a 20-foot tall printer. 

The one-storey, 2,000 square foot space and its furniture has been built from reinforced concrete, glass fibre gypsum and plastic in collaboration with architecture and engineering firms Global Gensler, Thornton Thomasetti and Syska Hennessy.

The space is the temporary headquarters of staff for the Museum of the Future, which is due to open in 2017 in the Emirates Towers area.

Although invented by American engineer Chuck Hull in 1986, the process of connecting molecules using laser light to form polymers into solid shapes, is being heralded by some as the beginning of the third industrial revolution.

Cities around the world (and even space agencies) are applauding the clear benefits of 3D printing, from the 50-80 per cent decrease in labour costs and between 30-60 per cent decrease in construction waste, to the potential for custom design. Vision rounds up the top five projects in the print queue...

Museum of the Future initiative 3D printed office 2
The 3D office is temporary home to staff from the Museum of the FutureImage: UAE Innovation Committee

Lego life in China

Chinese materials firm Yingchuang New Materials printed 10 buildings in 24 hours by using a mixture of construction waste with cement as its 'ink.' The self supporting structures are used as offices in Shanghai. 

Peaceful villages in Italy

WASP (World's Advanced Saving Project) is building a technological village in Massa Lombara, not far from Bologna, that is 'dedicated to technological printing.' The 12-metre high printer is called BigDelta WASP and aims to print an eco-friendly village with little energy consumption. The village is called Shamballa after the name of the mythological place that symbolises the city of peace, tranquility and happiness, and will include a laboratory with a compact desktop printer to make objects such as jewellery and ceramics.

Skyscrapers in Singapore

Around US$100m has been invested in the Singapore Centre for 3D Printing at Nanyang Technological University. The goal is to manufacture interlocking, concrete blocks that can be sent to and assembled on any building site, fitting together as apartments to combat the city's housing deficit or as structures for medical and military facilities by 2020. 

Steel bridges in Amsterdam

A Dutch start-up company is building the world's first 3D printed bridge to connect the canals of Amsterdam. MX3D's robotic machines will first design the steel pedestrian structure in 3D. Its robotic 'arm printers' will then crawl across the canal to essentially print and weld the components into place by mid-2017.

3D printing on the moon

Foster + Partners is part of a consortium set up by the European Space Agency to explore the possibilities of 3D printing to construct lunar habitations. Addressing the challenges of transporting materials to the moon, the study is investigating the use of lunar soil, known as regolith, as building matter.