Concrete Dreams: 3D Printing for Military Construction Enables New Tactics, Pt. 2

Formnext Germany

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The U.S. military is taking an extraordinary interest in 3D printing for construction, with the U.S. Army in particular looking at swarm 3D printing and making better concrete for additive construction. In a previous article, we saw the obvious reasons why the military is looking to 3D print buildings, including having less staff on station, which will make it cheaper and safer to build overseas. Generally, the U.S. Army’s $10 billion construction budget means that any additive construction advances will be very beneficial to it. But, we’ve also previously seen that 3D printing construction robots, especially coupled with more automation and even autonomous use, could allow the U.S. to build smaller bases or create a forward operating base (FOB) in a box. Now, we will look at more tactics that could be enabled through construction 3D printing.


If supplies are needed across a river or small sea, the military could build bridges quickly close to where they are needed. This could lead to less traffic and a quicker more resilient crossing. One single bridge could be expanded to 50 to enable continual crossing by many vehicles making resupply easier. This could mean that troops could cross waters at much more accelerated speeds than others would predict.

Mulberry Harbors

On D Day, Mulberry Harbors were towed into place to enable fast unloading of men and equipment in ports. 3D printing opens up the possibility to create a small mulberry harbor at a broad river to enable the quick deployment of troops or safe supply of a base. These could be customized as per what is needed and even made to size for the natural harbor. Phoenix caissons could also be 3D printed in order to make a ¨unlandable¨ beach suitable for landings by Marines.

Concrete Barges

Concrete barges could be made in order to transport supplies across large rivers or in order to build expendable ships that could transport men or equipment across many miles. Things such as fuel or water could be transported with little fuss and little protection. Cost wise these barges would be attritional in the sense that it wouldn’t suck too much if they were lost and the enemy would have to expend more cost and expose itself to target them.


Offshore drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico.

Towed 3D printed concrete structures could be armed and towed into place to act as weapons, radar, surveillance, machine gun emplacements, landing structures. They could be like oil platforms but weaponized ones and could quickly be deployed offshore or even in riverine areas. The US military already operates a platform radar base that can be towed into place but this could now be done with much more expendable structures. This could overnight see a river be transformed into one lined by a distributed fort made up of heavy cannon and AA on concrete platforms.

Decoy Emplacement

When not in use 3D printing robots could continuously 3D print bunkers and machine gun emplacements at a site. Some of these could be real but many could be decoys. It would mean that the enemy would have to spend a lot of time targeting and destroying them to capture a base. At the same time clearing these emplacements would expose men to fire from the real occupied fortifications. Also capturing them may not give them access to the base or line. In fact it could lead to a maze instead.

Decoy Bases

If friendly forces were to build a base in an area 3D printers could be dispatched to ten other locations to build ten bases there. This would confuse the enemy as to which was the real base and force them to spread out their recce or surveillance capacity. Bases could be rigged to explode should they be attacked anyway as not to be used by the enemy.

Hard Positions in Place

In advance of an ambush defensive and fallback position could be 3D Printed in place months earlier. This would make an insertion of troops into an area easier. A small force could be difficult to extract if they had positions to fall back upon. At the same time continual 3D printing of these positions would force the enemy to explore and take notice of these positions continually.

Fallback Lines

At little cost, robots not use elsewhere could produce lines to which troops could fall back to. This will let them be built while troops could guard frontlines. It could much deepen a defensive line and make it much more formidable to penetrate. New structures and improved ones could be build all the time giving defenders options.

Small Emplacements

Along a contested road trucks could come and place a 1000 premade 3D printed structures that have been printed to resemble the land and the terrain precisely. Inside these emplacements are automated guns that could hold up or block an enemy on an advance. If we can make a 1000 of these every month we’d have six roads suitably blocked like this in half a year. The secure emplacement covered area could continually expand making more area secure while making it more difficult to take.

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