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3D-printed skyscraper: Exciting new heights or imaginative fantasy?

The potential of offsite manufacturing, and even new technologies like 3D printing and additive manufacturing, have long been touted as solutions that could help improve the efficiency of construction.

And while 3D printing has yet to properly take off commercially in the industry in terms of building entire structures, a story this week has shown just how far out some of the ideas in this nascent sector are.

Dubai-based construction firm Cazza this week announced plans to build the world’s first-ever 3D-printed skyscraper.

Yes, you read that correctly: a skyscraper.

While many sizeable structures have been successfully 3D-printed, like bridges and houses, this takes ambition to another level – literally.

Cazza has dubbed its new technique for high-rise building ‘crane painting’, using cranes with added units that have been specially built to put together structures of 80 m or more in height.

Reaching higher

Cazza CEO Chris Kelsey told Construction Week Online: “When we first thought of implementing 3D printing technologies, we were mostly thinking of houses and low-rise buildings.

“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.

“Through our technologies, we will be able to build architecturally complex buildings at never-before-seen speeds.

”It is all about economies of scale where the initial high technology costs will reduce as we enter the mass-production phase.”

The process won’t take place quite how you’re probably picturing it; rather, Cazza’s method uses the cranes to 3D-print specific parts of the building, including all the major structural components required, with the rest of the process completed using traditional construction methods.

Cazza previously entered into an agreement with Dubai back in December to help the emirate with its 3D printing agenda, with the city-state forging ahead with ambitious plans to 3D-print numerous different kinds of buildings, including homes, laboratories and offices.

But there is no timescale in place for this project, an exact location (it will apparently be built in the UAE somewhere) or a confirmed height.

It perhaps shouldn’t come as a surprise that a structure like this is mooted for the home of the world’s current tallest building – but it will be another sort of challenge altogether.

Is this a realistic application of 3D printing technology or just another fantastical idea from a company seeking to gain attention?

Only time will tell.

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