Numerous developers within the construction industry have begun to embrace 3D printing, extolling on the vast benefits, and showing off a range of projects from small structures to residential housing, and even revisiting the potential for space habitats. The construction 3D printing industry and a handful of companies have continued to be in the hot seat over ambitious promises though, causing skepticism from many, mainly due to claims that structures were built rapidly, along with some confusion about what percentage of the structures were actually 3D printed, rather than manufactured partially via conventional technology (which is common, and understandable in most cases).
In the latest, Austin, Texas-headquartered ICON, the manufacturer of large-scale 3D printers, recently partnered with the Department of Defense Innovation Unit to fabricate four 15-foot-tall buildings meant to hide military vehicles at California’s Camp Pendleton.
“This marked the first time non-ICON employees were the primary operators of our equipment and they did an incredible job printing the vehicle hide structure,” Michael Harper, director of field operations for ICON, said in a statement. “After getting a glimpse of what 3D printing can accomplish, the Marines had great ideas for other applications of this technology, and we can’t wait to assist in making those ideas become a reality.”
The ICON team claims that the project team was initially slated to print the buildings within 48 hours; however, in working with eight Marines knowledgeable about the Vulcan 3D printer (as well as the accompanying software and necessary building methods), they printed all four “vehicle hide structures” within 36 hours.
“There are commercial technologies that provide one area of excellence in robotic building, but few that tie all the necessary aspects together in a way that makes construction instantly accessible to the novice without any software engineer training,” said Jeremiah Diacogiannis, DIU program manager, U.S. Navy Lt. “The design of new structures, from shelters to bridges, can be done in less time and with fewer hands via simple, intuitive commands on a touchscreen tablet or smartphone and executed by the robotics system at the push of a button.”
ICON has been working with the DIU for a year, instructing on and showing them the benefits of 3D printing for the military. 3D printed structures like those meant to hide military vehicles could also be used in other applications—especially in times of disaster when shelters are needed quickly.
ICON has been involved in previous projects geared toward helping the homeless with 3D printed proof-of-concept homes, as well as collaborating with other companies 3D printing homes in developing countries. The company has continued to advance in:
- 3D printing in construction
- 3D printer manufacturing
- Robotics systems
- Advanced construction materials
Founded in 2017 by CEO Jason Ballard, CTO Alex Le Roux, and co-founder Evan Loomis, ICON received an infusion of $9 million in seed funding just a couple of years ago, and an additional $26 million this year.Austin Inno; Images: ICON]
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