Scaled Up

Apis Cor claims to have created the largest on-site 3D-printed building

The two-story government agency building in Dubai is reportedly the largest ever 3D printed. (Courtesy Apis Cor)

Dubai is now home to what is claimed to be the world’s largest on-site 3D-printed building. The 31-foot-tall, two-story government agency was printed in on-site three weeks using a single printer developed by the Boston-based Apis Cor, which has previously garnered attention for their sub-$10,000 printed home and for winning NASA’s 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge along with SEarch+ for their Martian housing proposal.

To realize the 6,889-square-foot structure, Apis Cor moved its automobile-sized printer, which is powered by custom software, around the construction site with a crane, along with the help of three workers. Each wall was printed using a mix of locally-available common products like cement and gypsum, along with proprietary materials the company has developed. Steel rebar was added to reinforce the walls and the foundation was laid using standard construction techniques and insulation, while the roofing and windows were added by workers as well.

A large armature in the middle of unbuilt concrete walls.

A large-scale printer was moved about the site by crane, and printed using a proprietary blend of off-the-shelf and custom materials adapted for the particular climate conditions. (Courtesy Apis Cor)

Apis Cor noted that working unsheltered in the harsh climate required “extensive R&D,” and the team had to develop a process and mix of materials well suited to the changing conditions. (Moscow State University of Civil Construction also lent help with structural modeling.) Despite the severe and shifting environment, Dubai has become a center of experimentation in 3D printing, for construction and in other industries such as medicine. The city aims to have 25 percent of its buildings created with 3D printing by 2030.

However, Apis Cor says that its tech is adaptable to other climates and it will be heading to Louisiana and California next to build affordable housing; a use for 3D printing which many claim will be cheaper, faster, and stronger than traditional methods and that has been the focus of other startups such as the Texas-based ICON

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