For several years now, predictions of a not too distant future in which consumers and producers use 3D printing on a daily basis have caused excitement. But the extent to which these predictions have materialized may come across as disappointing to the public eye.
Indeed, the 3D-printed miniature replicas of the Burj Khalifa and the Burj Al Arab that may come to mind do not tell the tale of a technology that has disrupted the world as we know it. And yet the applications for 3D printing are plentiful as the technology already plays important roles in various sectors. To name one, it has advanced our medical capabilities beyond what was long considered possible. Furthermore, the technology could eventually provide new solutions to food shortages and subsequent famines.
The applications for 3D printing can be categorized roughly into manufacturing, industry, medical and sociocultural sectors, and Dubai is determined to reap its benefits in all these sectors and more. Under the 3D Printing Strategy, launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, Dubai aims to exploit 3D-printing technology for the service of humanity and promote the status of the UAE and Dubai as a leader in this realm. Implementing the strategy is Dubai Future Foundation (DFF), the entity set up to shape the future of strategic sectors in cooperation with both public and private sector actors. Dubai has put its money where its mouth is with a program that aims to cut costs in key sectors of the economy by 90%, and to harness the technology’s potential to restructure sectors and labor markets as well as redefine productivity.
The Dubai 3D Printing Strategy aims to reduce labor by 70% and bring down production time by 80%. The strategy is translated into municipal regulations that dictate every new building in Dubai will be 25% 3D printed by 2030, which will not only reduce labor and costs, but also bring down waste produced in construction operations by up to 50%. In turn, this will reflect positively on the economic returns of the construction sector and contribute to sustainable development.
Starting in 2019, companies would need to use 3D printing for at least 2% of production to obtain a license to build, which will then gradually increase with 2% each year toward the target of 25%. In an interview with TBY, DFF’s CEO Khalfan Juma Belhoul commented on his target of becoming a global leader in 3D printing: “Sheikh Mohammed pushed us to the limit by setting a 3D printing strategy … It will start by 3D printing small objects like door knobs and frames, moving gradually to larger parts and building materials. This shows that the vision is not merely a dream we are looking at but one we are actually prepared to execute.”
In addition to the construction sector, Dubai’s 3D Printing Strategy will particularly target consumer and medical products. Dubai Health Authority (DHA) has committed to regulating and setting the standards for the use of 3D technology in the health sector and will explore the use of 3D printed prosthetic limbs, teeth, and hearing aids in public clinics and hospitals. DHA’s Chairman of the Board and Director-General, HE Humaid Al Qutami, states that 3D printing has revolutionized the health industry and support the creation of a patient-centered health system and told TBY: “Doctors can perform complex surgeries with the utmost precision using 3D printed models. Moreover, the technology is cost effective, which makes it affordable across a wide spectrum of patients who need it.”