Dubai laboratories to research 3-D printing, drone technology

New research laboratories in Dubai will focus on 3-D printing and drones.
New research laboratories in Dubai will focus on 3-D printing and drones. | shutterstock

Leaders in the United Arab Emirates are building a new set of scientific laboratories in Dubai's Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park to help continue innovation in aerospace and other manufacturing industries.

A set of 3-D printed laboratories are slated to be built as part of the research and development center there, and the labs also will conduct research on drones, reports said.

Interestingly enough, the labs themselves will also be constructed using 3-D printing.

An electronics laboratory will house electrical design and repair services for drones. A software laboratory will facilitate research on products. A mechanical laboratory will accommodate different types of investigations into combustion and other elements of aerospace and transportation industries and also allow designers to develop prototypes. There also will be an outdoor flight testing facility.

"The EOI (expression of interest) to construct the 3-D-printed labs at the solar park reflects our efforts to achieve the directives of our wise government.” Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, managing director and CEO of the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), said in a press statement.  “The Dubai 3-D Printing Strategy is a unique global initiative to use technology for the service of humanity and promote the status of the UAE and Dubai as a leading hub of 3-D printing technology by 2030.”

The announcement of the intended laboratory site doesn't go into detail about how 3-D printing will drive innovation, but Matthew Kroenig, non-resident senior fellow of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security at the  Atlantic Council, said there are many ways to use this type of modern design process in physical industries like aerospace. Kroenig wrote an article titled “3-D Printing the Bomb?” that goes into detail about the potential and some of the possible dangers of 3-D technologies.

“In general, 3-D printing has made rapid advances.” Kroenig told the Gulf News Journal. “You can produce parts … very cheaply … and with little technical skill.”

Processes that used to require teams of engineers and expensive laboratory facilities can now be done nearly anywhere, by nearly anyone, Kroenig said. Less experienced users can download a digital build file, which will automatically manage the engineering process to build even durable steel and metal parts like jet engines or fuselages. 

“Their interest makes a lot of sense.” Kroenig said of the Dubai program in Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, adding that 3-D printing could be extremely valuable in the pursuit of renewable energies. “It is basically a new way of producing anything.”

Still, Kroenig said, 3-D printing can also be used to make various kinds of weapons, even what he called “the building blocks of WMD,” and that's why Kroenig and others are calling for export control regimes to be set up to deal with 3-D printing technologies. Kroenig said he doesn't know how that's going to be achieved, exactly, but that it will require some agreements between nations.

However, Kroenig said, the other side of the issue is that 3-D printing can just as easily be used to produce all sorts of things that can help countries to pursue smart cities programs, improve their infrastructures or do cutting-edge research into projects for the common good.

“There is an upside.” Kroenig said.

Organizations in this Story

Dubai Electricity and Water Authority

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