Story highlights

Launched in 2016, Dubai-based Cazza specializes in 3D printing and construction automation.

The company claims to reduce labor and material costs by up to 90%.

Cazza's portable Minitank will be able to layer up to 2,153 square feet (200 sqm) of concrete per day.

CNN  — 

Imagine a world where huge cities could be created with the click of a button.

It might seem like the stuff of science fiction, but that’s where 3D-printing technology is headed, according to one Dubai-based start-up.

Cazza has designed a 3D-printing crane dubbed the “Minitank”, which the company says can layer up to 2,153 square feet (200 sqm) of concrete per day – making it more than 50% faster than conventional construction methods.

Automating the construction process, according to Cazza, would not only allow developers to build housing in step with rapid population growth, but is also better for the environment.

Teenage dream

The mastermind behind the Minitank is a teenager.

Chris Kelsey, CEO and co-founder of Cazza construction automation company, is just 19 years old, and last year used the money he made by selling his previous start-up, Appsitude, to fund his current project.

As well as hiring a team of engineers experienced in the 3D printing field, Cazza also enlisted structural engineers to assess existing 3D printers in the construction world and identify where those designs could be improved.

The company used this knowledge to design a series of on-site mobile 3D-printers, and began testing prototypes that have informed the final design of the Minitank, which is currently under construction itself.

Kelsey says the biggest barrier to the adoption of the Minitank – should it work when finally built – will be public misconception.

“People don’t realize how much the 3D-printing world has changed,” Kelsey tells CNN. “They think that 3D printing is just (about using) plastic. People assume it won’t be structurally sound. That’s not what we do.”

Over the past 15 years, 3D printing has evolved from a novelty technology for printing small toys to a sophisticated process that has transformed mega-industries from fashion to fine art.

Construction, he says, is a natural progression.

Jack Cheng, an associate professor in the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, believes the technology has tremendous potential.

“I think it’s real, practical technologically. It’s possible to print an entire city but, of course, it will depend on the speed. Concrete is not something – like plastic – that’s hard immediately when it prints. Concrete takes time to solidify,” he says.

Cheng adds that in the United States the military has been exploring the idea of 3D printing cities after disasters, when there is a need to urgently rehouse people.

Designing Dubai

In 2016, the Dubai government announced its 3D Printing Strategy, which aims to see 25% of buildings in the city constructed using 3D printing technology by 2030.

Last year, Cazza was invited by the Dubai Road and Transport Authority (RTA) to present their technology to those overseeing the initiative, the government confirms.

Once based in the US, Cazza subsequently moved its headquarters in the United Arab Emirates state, which is already home to the world’s first functional