3D Printing

US military builds barracks using "world's largest" 3D printer

US Marine Corps Systems Command used a 3D printer to construct a prototype concrete barracks measuring 500 sq ft (46 sq m) in just 40 hours
US Marine Corps Systems Command used a 3D printer to construct a prototype concrete barracks measuring 500 sq ft (46 sq m) in just 40 hours
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The construction process for the barracks was very similar to other 3D-printed buildings we've covered
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The construction process for the barracks was very similar to other 3D-printed buildings we've covered
We've no word on how finishing touches like the roof and doors were completed, but would guess that US Marines handled these manually
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We've no word on how finishing touches like the roof and doors were completed, but would guess that US Marines handled these manually
US Marine Corps Systems Command used a 3D printer to construct a prototype concrete barracks measuring 500 sq ft (46 sq m) in just 40 hours
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US Marine Corps Systems Command used a 3D printer to construct a prototype concrete barracks measuring 500 sq ft (46 sq m) in just 40 hours

3D-printed construction seems a good fit for the military. The emerging technology is relatively portable and inexpensive, and could potentially even save lives if it means soldiers receive a safe barracks in a shorter time. With this in mind, the US Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) recently constructed a prototype concrete barracks in under two days with what it calls the world's largest 3D printer.

MCSC's Additive Manufacturing Team collaborated with I Marine Expeditionary Force to build the prototype barracks at the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Champaign, Illinois.

The 3D printer was used to build a basic barracks hut measuring 500 sq ft (46 sq m) in just 40 hours. According to MCSC, it normally takes 10 Marines five days to construct a similar hut out of wood, so that's a significant improvement.

The team began with a computer model and a 3D printer. Once they hit print, the actual construction process was very similar to previous 3D-printed concrete structures we've seen, and involved cement being extruded through a nozzle in layers to build up the undulating walls. We've no word on how the roof, windows and doors were added, but would guess that US Marines handled these finishing touches manually.

We've no word on how finishing touches like the roof and doors were completed, but would guess that US Marines handled these manually
We've no word on how finishing touches like the roof and doors were completed, but would guess that US Marines handled these manually

The Marine Corps is now carrying out more research to see how the technology can be employed in the field and if the construction process can be refined further. One suggestion made was that automating the pumping and mixing of the cement could speed up progress to just a day.

"In active or simulated combat environments, we don't want Marines out there swinging hammers and holding plywood up," says MCSC Capt. Matthew Friedell. "Having a concrete printer that can make buildings on demand is a huge advantage for Marines operating down range."

We've reached out for more information on the actual dimensions of the 3D printer to confirm it's even bigger than the Russian model we recently covered, but looking to the future, MCSC aims to deploy the tech for military operations and humanitarian aid and relief missions, and says it could help re-house people in need more quickly.

"This capability would enable a great partnership with the local community because it is low cost, easy to use, and robotics could print the buildings," adds Friedell. "We can bring forward better structures, houses and forward operating bases with less manpower and fewer Marines in harm's way."

Source: MCSC

13 comments
GeneMoore
ok I do concrete and carpentry and this "system" is a rip-off. I can build it with 3 workers in 4 days for the walls and one for the roof using poured in place lightweight concrete. If the marines need 10 people working for 10 days they must be blind crippled and asleep, and definatley not worth having to build anything but big butts. this whole thing is a mechanized joke and a total rip-off.
DavidIngram
Who is going to transport, operate, and maintain this equipment. Add 3 trucks and 15 techs.
toyhouse
Reading the article, the key word in it is, "prototype",. Something military has always done. The military will give companies a chance, in the field, to see how something will perform under their specific needs and requirements. Not necessarily our's or the free market. I doubt there are many experts in the field of 3d structure printing just yet. It's new! But the potential for building life saving structures, (strong), in certain, harsh or dangerous environments, should be beyond obvious. Even in it's technical infancy, the advantages may outweigh current disadvantages. Obviously, the military thinks there's potential somewhere. This is new ground. One must think outside the box.
Grunchy
The shape of the walls is very unusual. Stay-in-place concrete form technology is probably better because it's much faster, also you can include rebar reinforcement (maybe this one has some kind of fibre in the cement mix?) Obviously it's technology-in-development since it shows at least 8 people in the photo, only one of whom seems to be doing something.
exodous
Not practical but if you let the Military pay for advancements in structure printing it will benefit everyone. It is insane that this technology isn't being used more often and the reason is no one is putting money into r&d. In comes the US Military, it having the largest budget for r&d than any other organization on the planet, and things will move forward. Yeah, for military purposes this is money wasted but might as well use some of that money to advance printing buildings. This could also be re-used in the space program, send robots to Mars to print a base for future astronauts.
Dan Marsh
Those walls could be built in less time by a couple of blocklayers (humans) with a far better end result. Presumably the walls have to be wavy shaped so that they don't collapse. The system is a joke, but you might get a some beer money for that machine at the scarp yard!
Trylon
The wavy walls are in fact to increase lateral stiffness. Think of the difference between flat sheets of paper and corrugated cardboard. You can make strong, stiff boxes out of one, while the other would collapse under any kind of load.
Dan Lewis
I like the idea. They could make the barracks any color, or even a camouflage non-pattern. It needs to be able to do the job even faster than it currently does.
minivini
To all you armchair quarterback “I can do it better” types: can you do it while combatting snipers, patrolling, guarding a perimeter, and actively engaging enemy combatants? Didn’t think so. Nobody cares if you can lay cinder blocks in rural Oklahoma.
Deres
I think they are wrong to use this type of huge 3D printer box. At this size, this should be done by a mecanized arm instead. Otherwise, you take a long time building your 3D-printer and moving it. And you will have issue at the seam between walls. They also do not talk about the floor that was probably done manually in concrete.