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In the latest episode of the Arabian Business Enterprise Innovators Series, in association with UPS, we look at how 3D printing has grown from being a niche technological innovation to become a $120bn global industry, with Dubai aiming to be at the centre of it.

Building the future: How 3D printing is becoming mainstream

Dubai loves its Guinness World Records and in October the unveiling of a 9.5 metre tall, 640 square metre building made entirely using 3D printing technology meant the emirate was able to add ‘the largest 3D printed two-storey structure in the world’ to its ever growing haul of accolades.

The headline-grabbing event is all part of the Dubai 3D Printing Strategy, which aims to establish the emirate as the world’s 3D printing hub by 2030. Dubai officials claim the technology will restructure economies and labour markets, while redefining productivity. The emirate has set some very ambitious goals: to use 3D printing to reduce labour costs by 70 percent and reduce material costs by 90 percent.

The global market for 3D printing is expected to reach $120bn by the end of 2020 and about $300bn by 2025 and, according to the Dubai Municipality, by 2025 every new building in the emirate will be 25 percent 3D printed.

International funding drive

But we do not have to wait until 2030, or even 2025, to start seeing the benefits from 3D printing. Fast Radius, a Chicago-based company which was founded in 2015, offers 3D printing facilities and solutions to its customers and in 2016 it teamed up with global logistics provider UPS to expand its services to an international audience.

This partnership was solidified even further with the announcement last year that UPS led a $48m series B funding round for Fast Radius. While Dubai’s 3D printed buildings are evidence of the practical uses the technology can offer the construction sector, Lou Rassey, co-founder and CEO of Fast Radius, says there are many other ways businesses, from start-ups to global conglomerates, can benefit from 3D printing.

“One of the leading applications of 3D printing and logistics is for virtual warehouse applications, where companies are storing parts digitally in a cloud and producing them on demand when they need them for applications, as opposed to storing them physically in a box on a shelf in a warehouse,” Rassey says.

“This creates meaningful cost improvements, as well as sustainability benefits for companies managing global supply chains. Over the last five years 3D printing has crossed the tipping point from being primarily used as a prototyping tool to now being viable for production,” he added.

Rassey says there has been two major changes which have helped boost the usage of 3D printing and its applications.

“One is the economics,” he beieves. “Now you can produce parts economically using industrial grade aluminium manu-facturing in meaningful volumes appropriate for production applications. Secondly, you have material quality and performance improvements in the end parts, based on the advances in material science as well as the equipment technologies being used for industrial grade 3D printing.”

Production applications

According to the Dubai Future Foundation, 3D printing will be used in a multitude of areas within the construction sector, including lighting products, bases and foundations, construction joints, facilities and parks, buildings for humanitarian causes and mobile homes.

Within the medical products sector, the Dubai Health Authority has recently opened a 3D printing lab that will focus on developing 3D produced teeth, bones, artificial organs and medical and surgical devices and hearing aids.

Within the consumer products sector, 3D printing will also focus on household items, optics, fashion jewellery, children’s games and fast food. The Dubai Future Foundation estimates the size of the market will be AED2.8bn ($762m) in 2025.

“What is so exciting about 3D printing is we are seeing applications across every sector of the manufacturing economy, from aerospace applications to industrials to automotive applications and consumer products, footwear and athletic protective gear,” Rassey says. “So, for any engineer who is making a physical product it is an entirely new tool to add to their toolbox,” he adds.

Expo logistics partner

The use of technological innovations like 3D printing to improve the lives of global citizens is a key focus for Expo 2020 Dubai. When it opens its doors on October 20, 2020, the six-month

event will showcase the latest innovative ideas, inventions, insights and advancements the emirates, and the wider Arab world, has to offer.

Ahead of the launch of Expo 2020 Dubai, the Arabian Business Enterprise Innovators Series aims to showcase the great range of innovations that are already taking place across the UAE and beyond.

The series is being developed in association with global logistics company UPS, the official logistics partner of Expo 2020. While UPS is a company that is more than a century old, has a global remit and has nearly half a billion employees, it has always been a catalyst for change and innovation.

Fast Radius’ Rassey believes his company’s link up with UPS will help bring 3D printing to a mass market and open up the innovative possibilities the technology can deliver.

“UPS is an incredible partner, they have built global infrastructure and supply chain solutions to power traditional technology and now with digital manufacturing and digital supply chains coming to bare they have a century of experience, insight and networks and infrastructure that can help really provide a launch pad for fourth modality logistics,” he says.

Check out the latest episodes in the Enterprise Innovators series at www.arabianbusiness.com/enterprise-innovators

Get involved: What are you and your company doing to innovate?

The Arabian Business Enterprise Innovators Series, in association with UPS, is looking for local companies to get involved in the initiative. Our coverage will run across print, online, social media and video and we are looking for organisations to tell us about the programmes, ideas and practices they are working on and the impact and improvements they have witnessed across some of the sectors below:

Facial recognition: Speed and security are two key considerations for many companies. Technological advances such as facial recognition are providing answers to these challenges.

5G outlay: The super-fast fifth-generation cellular network technology promises faster download speeds and will have a huge impact on the UAE’s economy.

Artificial Intelligence (AI): More than just robots replacing jobs, many companies are using AI to reduce mundane work practices.

Electric vehicles: While the region has a high percentage of car usage, it has been slow to embrace electric models. What are companies and organisations doing to be more sustainable in their transport strategies?

For all the latest Enterprise Innovators news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.