U.S. Army Embraces 3D Printing, Reduces Construction Costs

The barracks hut, or B-Hut was created via an additive manufacturing process, which allows semi-permanent buildings to be printed using concrete made from available materials.

📅   Mon August 28, 2017 - National Edition
Emily Buenzle


The barracks hut, or B-Hut was created via an additive manufacturing process, which allows semi-permanent buildings to be printed using concrete made from available materials. (Photo Credit: Michael Jazdyk)
The barracks hut, or B-Hut was created via an additive manufacturing process, which allows semi-permanent buildings to be printed using concrete made from available materials. (Photo Credit: Michael Jazdyk)

The U.S. Army recently built a barracks hut from 3D-printed concrete.

The 512-sq.ft. building was created at the Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) in Champaign, Ill., by the Army's three-year-long Automated Construction of Expeditionary Structures (ACES) program. The barracks hut, or B-Hut was created via an additive manufacturing process, which allows semi-permanent buildings to be printed using concrete made from available materials. In doing so, the Army said it could cut building costs in half, and could reduce manpower by 62 percent.

"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 team designed, built, and validated an additive, three-dimensional concrete printing technology that is a real game changer. Unlike previous efforts, ACES can use up to 3/8 in. 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."

Moving Forward

According to the Army, CERL has partnered up with NASA to find a way to make the technology used in the ACES program more mobile.

So far:

  • NASA has created a dry goods delivery batching system which ACES used to print the B-Hut.
  • CERL and NASA are in the process of building and testing a third-generation 3D printer, which is scheduled for delivery in September.
  • NASA said moving forward it will look into “additive construction of extraterrestrial infrastructure.”
  • In addition, ERDC and Caterpillar have announced a partnership in a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement. The partnership will focus on finding ways to commercialize the technology used in ACES, especially in relation to disaster relief and other, more typical construction endeavors.