US-Marines 3D-Print Their Barracks

US-Marines succeeded in 3D printing a concrete barrack of 500 square-foot in just 40 hours. This technology provides a much safer and longer durable living option for the Marines and might be completely automatized in the future.

Header Picture: Marine Corps

3D-printable materials get more and more diverse. While plastic used to be the easiest alternative for a long time, the technology has reached a point where printing entire buildings from concrete is possible. US-Marines discovered this method for their own advantage (and safety) and recently tested printing a 500-square-foot barracks room in just 40 hours.

3D printing and architecture meld increasingly (check this blog article out for more information), but there is always room for improvement and innovations.

The Zest of 3D-Printed Barracks

In fact, this 3D-printed building is a world first. There are buildings that contain or consist of printed parts that are assembled onsite. In Dubai, there is an entire office building that was printed in 17 days and constructed in 48 hours. China-based WinSun Decoration Design Engineering have recently managed to 3D-print a six-story apartment building and occupy a leading position in the 3D printing sector globally. The Marines, however, created the world’s first continuous 3D-printed concrete barracks. The construction was printed completely onsite and did not need to be assembled.

Despite the advantages the Marines get from 3D printing their barracks, the technology even benefits our environment, according to experts from Eindhoven University of Technology. They say:

“The printer deposits only the concrete where it is needed, which decreases the use of cement. This reduces CO2 emissions, as cement production has a very high carbon footprint.”

Furthermore, printing at the structure’s final location avoids the emissions caused by transportation.

The Process

Access to the world’s largest 3D concrete printer was not the only prerequisite for the project. The Marines’ Additive Manufacturing team used a 10-year-old computer with computer aided design files. For the construction of the prototype, the printer had to be loaded with concrete manually by Marines, but they are convinced that this task can be handled by robots in the near future.

Once loaded, the concrete was pushed through the print head and layered repeatedly, resulting in a stable and durable structure. Since this was the first attempt at continuous 3D printing of a building, the whole process had to be monitored, but as soon as it’s well-engineered, this might no longer be necessary.

Advantages of an Automatized 3D Printing of Barracks

“In active or simulated combat environments, we don’t want Marines out there swinging hammers and holding plywood up,”

says Capt. Matthew Friedell, Additive Manufacturing project officer in MCSC’s Operations and Programs/G-3.

“Having a concrete printer that can make buildings on demand is a huge advantage for Marines operating down range.”

The construction itself is a dangerous endeavor, but it also keeps the Marines from performing other (necessary) tasks. Without a 3D printer capable of constructing concrete barracks, ten Marines need five days to construct it. The aim is to automatize the process completely and also to cut down the process to 24 hours.

The concrete barracks are, furthermore, much safer living options for the Marines. The material is capable of resisting enemy fire, which is an improvement in comparison to canvas tents or wood barracks. This technology could also find usage in disaster areas, where emergency housing is needed.

US-Marines recently 3D-printed the first continuous onsite concrete barrack and plan to improve this technology in the future. Where else do you expect benefits resulting from this technology?