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Acciona speaks out on the world's largest 3D printing facility in Dubai

EXCLUSIVE: Acciona’s chief operating officer, Luis Clemente, gives further details on the world’s largest 3D printing center in Dubai

Acciona’s inaugeration of the world’s largest 3D printing center
Acciona’s inaugeration of the world’s largest 3D printing center
Acciona’s Luis Clemente
Acciona’s Luis Clemente

Acciona, a leading company in sustainable infrastructure solutions, inaugurated a new global 3D printing center in Dubai from October 2019 to meet the growing demand for 3D printed infrastructure.

The new facilities feature the world’s largest operational 3D printer using powder bed technology. This technology is particularly suitable for generating highly resistant structural parts. In addition, the technique uses concrete as base material, which renders it as an ideal solution for architectural, urban and building applications.

Acciona opened its first Middle East office in Dubai in 2008. Since then, the country has been the centre point from which it has developed its business activities throughout the Gulf region and other Arab countries.

The “Dubai 3D Printing Strategy” is integrated into the Emirate’s strategic development plan for cost reduction, productivity and performance improvement of products and environmental impact mitigation. The strategy aims to make Dubai a world-class 3D printing hub by the year 2030.

Among the concrete initiatives included in the strategy is the introduction of a new law, which 25% of new buildings’ components must be manufactured with 3D technology by 2025.

Acciona has been awarded several water facilities in the UAE, with locations in Dubai and Fujairah, such as the Fujairah1 reverse osmosis desalination plant, and another day desalination plant in Dubai.

Acciona has chosen Dubai to install its 3D printing center in order to support the Emirate’s commitment to deploying this technology in all economic fields and, specifically, in the construction sector.

Through its construction division, Acciona is extending the Dubai Metro Red Line for Expo 2020 and modernising the Red and Green Lines. In addition, the company is building one of the largest photovoltaic plants in the world, the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park (Phase III), in Dubai.

Following the launch of the 3D printing center in Dubai, Construction Week caught up with Acciona’s chief operating officer, Luis Clemente, in an exclusive interview.

What were the reasons behind launching the 3D printing center?

This new 3D Printing Center in Dubai is the result of an initiative that was born six years ago in the Corporate Innovation Division of Acciona when an emerging 3D printing technology was identified as a potential disruptor of the construction business.

Since then, we worked with several partners to develop our current capabilities in concrete 3D printing.

After performing initial tests, and pilots and successfully delivering the flagship project of the first concrete 3D printed bridge in the world, we performed a feasibility study that resulted in the creation of a new business line within Acciona.

What are your objectives from the center? What do you hope to achieve from it?

We are focusing in three main product lines, namely, singular structures for buildings and civil engineering, urban furniture and sculptures for innovative design of urban spaces and creation of replicas for historical and cultural heritage conservation. We hope to create a new market by raising awareness among our potential clients about concrete 3D printing.

What are the major projects that you have already taken up in Dubai?

We have already delivered some products for museums, particularly benches and planters even some pieces for export.

Regarding major projects, there are several initiatives going on in Dubai launched by some government entities, as well as private companies. We are involved in several tender processes but are still not able to disclose.

Why Dubai? Are you working with major developers or designers?

Although there’s a global demand for this products, Dubai’s market was identified as the best one in terms of demand for innovative solutions and as a thriving economy with iconic projects such as Expo 2020. Its strategic location gives us access to other important markets in the region.

On top of this, we cannot forget the ‘’Dubai 3D Printing Strategy’’ launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, a great initiative that aims to position Dubai as a leading hub of 3D printing technology by the year 2030. 

What does Dubai’s construction industry need to do to hit 25% target of 3D printed buildings by 2030?

The construction industry has been identified as one of the less digitised sectors. Construction companies have to be open to innovation and applying new technologies such 3D printing. To take advantage of this opportunity to do things in a more efficient way, we are committed to help achieve this vision with the installation of our 3D printing facility in Dubai.

Do you have plans to launch another 3D center across the Middle East?

Not for now, although we are planning to expand our current capabilities that are based C3DP powder bed technology by incorporating also C3DP extrusion. 

From a tech point of view, what are the gaps that 3D printing hopes to address for the construction sector?

In the near future, it is about freedom of shapes. To be able to build structures impossible or too complex to make with traditional methods.

To be able to rise to the occasion when it comes to new designing tools such as generative design.

Just to follow up with process automation, increase efficiency on sites, risk reduction, environmental benefits and more to come.

What’s your outlook for 3D printing in the Middle East?

It is more than promising. We have already seen by ourselves the interest of many people and institutions in the technology and its applications.

We really believe the Middle East construction industry is the place to be.

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