We’ve been hearing a lot about the US military’s use of 3D printing lately. The Army just released a new report on its use of 3D printing, and just today we learned about the Marine Corps’ research into portable 3D printing labs. Now, a three-year Army program has resulted in a 3D printed barracks, also known as a B-Hut. The program, called “Automated Construction of Expeditionary Structures,” or ACES, explored 3D printing as a means of creating semi-permanent structures from concrete made with locally available materials.

The B-Hut was 3D printed at the Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) in Champaign, Illinois.

“ACES provides a capability to print custom designed expeditionary structures on-demand, in the field, using locally available materials,” said Dr. Michael Case, CERL ACES Program Manager. “ACES will allow the Army to print buildings and other required infrastructure, such as barriers, culverts and obstacles on location.”

The ACES program can potentially reduce the amount of building materials that have to be shipped by half and reduce construction manpower requirements by 62 percent compared to expedient plywood construction.

The 3D printed B-Hut measures 512 square feet and is made from sturdy concrete. CERL also worked with NASA on the project; the agency designed and built a dry goods delivery system that was used for 3D printing the B-Hut. The two organizations are also working together to develop a concrete 3D printer that is expected to be delivered in September of this year.

“The ACES team designed, built, and validated an additive, three-dimensional concrete printing technology that is a real game changer,” said Dr. Case. “Unlike previous efforts, ACES can use up to 3/8″ aggregate in the concrete that is used. In addition, the ACES project paid particular attention to methods of reinforcing printed concrete, both horizontally and vertically.”

As mentioned earlier, the military has been very serious about implementing 3D printing technology in multiple aspects of its operations lately, and for good reason. The military is by its nature a highly mobile organization, and 3D printing allows service members to produce tools, supplies and even shelter on an as-needed basis. The reinforced 3D printed concrete that the ACES program has been working on also ensures that barracks and other 3D printed structures are strong, stable and safe.

In addition, the ability to 3D print with concrete made from locally sourced materials further reduces the need to carry extra supplies along on missions. Projects like this one, as well as the Marines’ portable 3D printing labs, are opening a whole new door for the military to manufacture on the go, reducing costs and manpower.

3D printed construction has been a much talked-about development, and it does have the potential to be used for large-scale, permanent buildings such as houses and even apartment buildings. Where it may have the most impact, however, is in its ability to quickly construct shelters for emergency housing purposes or, as ACES has shown, barracks. There are plenty of situations in which housing needs to be constructed extremely quickly, as well as safely, and 3D printing has proven that it is capable of doing both. Discuss in the 3D Printed Barracks forum at 3DPB.com.

[Source: US Army Corps of Engineers / Images: Mike Jazdyk]

 

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