Above: Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, signs on the board during the official opening of the world's first functional 3D printed offices in Dubai May 23, 2016. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah
The printers - used industrially and also on a smaller scale to make digitally designed, three-dimensional objects from plastic - have not been used much for building.
This one used a special mixture of cement, a Dubai government statement said, and reliability tests were done in Britain and China.
The one-storey prototype building, with floorspace of about 250 square meters (2,700 square feet), used a 20-foot (6-metre)by 120-foot by 40-foot printer, the government said.
"This is the first 3D-printed building in the world, and it's not just a building, it has fully functional offices and staff," the United Arab Emirates Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Mohamed Al Gergawi, said.
"We believe this is just the beginning. The world will change," he said.
The arc-shaped office, built in 17 days and costing about $140,000, will be the temporary headquarters of Dubai Future Foundation - the company behind the project - is in the center of the city, near the Dubai International Financial Center.
Gergawi said studies estimated the technique could cut building time by 50-70 percent and labor costs by 50-80 percent. Dubai's strategy was to have 25 percent of the buildings in the emirate printed by 2030, he said.
What is 3D printing?3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file.
The creation of a 3D printed object is achieved using additive processes. In an additive process an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the entire object is created.
Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object.
How does 3D printing work?It all starts with making a virtual design of the object you want to create.
This virtual design is made in a CAD (Computer Aided Design) file using a 3D modeling program (for the creation of a totally new object) or with the use of a 3D scanner (to copy an existing object). A 3D scanner makes a 3D digital copy of an object.
3d scanners use different technologies to generate a 3d model such as time-of-flight, structured / modulated light, volumetric scanning and many more.
Recently, many IT companies like Microsoft and Google enabled their hardware to perform 3d scanning, a great example is Microsoft’s Kinect.
This is a clear sign that future hand-held devices like smartphones will have integrated 3d scanners. Digitizing real objects into 3d models will become as easy as taking a picture.
Prices of 3d scanners range from very expensive professional industrial devices to 30 USD DIY devices anyone can make at home.