DEWA opens world’s first 3D printed lab in the UAE

The nominations for the 2021 3D Printing Industry Awards are now open. Who do you think should make the shortlists for this year’s show? Have your say now. 

The Government of Dubai has unveiled the world’s first 3D printed research lab, which itself, is intended to become an international additive manufacturing hub. 

Printed on-site at the emirate’s 77 km² Solar Park, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority’s (DEWA) facility will be used to design and build rovers and drones, as well as 3D printing spares and prototypes. Using the lab’s suite of Markforged Metal X machines, DEWA ultimately aims to reduce the costs and lead times incurred when creating parts for its generation, transmission and distribution divisions. 

“DEWA works to enhance its production and operational capacity by investing in these technologies,” said HE Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, MD & CEO of DEWA. “The program also supports the Dubai 3D Printing Strategy, which is a unique global initiative to use technology for the service of humanity and promote the status of the UAE and Dubai as a global hub for 3D printing technology, by 2030.”

“The R&D Centre supports DEWA’s efforts in innovation which is a key pillar of its work.”

A concept image of DEWA's 3D printed R&D Centre.
A concept image of DEWA’s 3D printed R&D Centre. Photo via DEWA.

Becoming an AM ‘global leader’ 

DEWA’s 3D printing construction project has reportedly been in the works for over five years, but it has now finally been completed and opened for business. Based 50 km south of Dubai at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, the R&D Centre is said to comprise four different sub-laboratories, including dedicated electronics, software, mechanics and prototyping facilities.

With regards to the complex’s 3D printing activities, DEWA’s decision to install Metal X systems makes it the first among the region’s Gulf Cooperation Council to do so. Leveraging these machines, DEWA hopes to make efficiency and productivity gains within its operations, in addition to identifying related technical solutions and conducting training, mechanical testing and techno-economic analysis. 

More broadly, through its new Centre, the Dubai government also aims to become a driving force behind 3D printing’s wider development. The complex itself was actually built as part of the ‘Dubai 10X’ project, an initiative by the Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who has mandated that the emirate become “a global leader that is 10 years ahead of all other cities.” 

Markforged's Metal X system during 3D printing.
DEWA’s new facility houses Markforged Metal X 3D printers. Photo via Markforged.

Innovation at Dubai’s R&D Centre 

In the short time since DEWA’s lab has been operational, its engineers have already leveraged the facility’s Markforged, CyBe and other reinforced plastic 3D printers to make research advances. Not only have the R&D Centre’s teams published several papers, but at the 2nd Annual Conference on 3D Printing & AM, they will soon present their findings on “Materials for 3D printing in construction.”

Elsewhere, the facility’s engineers have managed to develop in-house robotics capable of testing the performance of the Solar Park’s photovoltaic (PV) panels at a reduced cost, and DEWA’s ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ division has now funded 17 related projects, as part of its commitment to boost scientific research in the UAE.

Other projects being conducted at the facility include the R&D of automated drones and a universal smart charging system for electric vehicles, which has now been patented. DEWA also revealed that it has gained a second patent for ‘Albedo Measurement,’ a means of calculating the diffused reflection of solar radiation on PV panels, that involves a novel autonomous rover, five of which have been built. 

Scale plan of the Shaikh Mohammed bin rashid Al maktoum Solar Park in Dubai. Photo via venturesonsite
A scale plan of the Shaikh Mohammed bin rashid Al maktoum Solar Park in Dubai. Photo via venturesonsite.

Dubai’s emerging AM scene

The opening of Dubai’s R&D Centre is just the latest in a string of initiatives over the last four years that have seen it become a regional hub for construction 3D printing. Back in June 2019, European building firm Freyssinet’s subsidiary Concreative established its first 3D printing facility in Dubai, with its Area Director saying at the time that the UAE was set to “become a major construction market.”

Since then, Spanish infrastructural management conglomerate ACCIONA has inaugurated a new UAE facility of its own, opening a Dubai-based global 3D printing centre. The complex reportedly houses one of the world’s largest operational powder bed 3D printers, which has specifically been built to address extensive architectural, urban and construction applications. 

Dutch architectural additive manufacturing firm Twente AM, meanwhile, unveiled its new 9-axis concrete 3D printer at Dubai’s Big 5 International Building & Construction Show last year. Designed to be capable of traveling 10 meters wide and 5 meters high, the firm’s large-format system was initially built to create leave-in formwork for homes being constructed in British Columbia.

The nominations for the 2021 3D Printing Industry Awards are now open. Who do you think should make the shortlists for this year’s show? Have your say now. 

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Featured image shows a concept image of DEWA’s 3D printed R&D Centre. Photo via DEWA.