US military starts on record-breaking 3D-printing project

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How the 3D-printed barracks in Fort Bliss will look (image by Logan Architecture)

How the 3D-printed barracks in Fort Bliss will look (image by Logan Architecture)

It is working in partnership with the private sector to build three transient training barracks using 3D printing technology. The project, which is being spearheaded by the Defense Innovation Unit, is expected to be completed within 10 months.

The barracks will each have an area of 5,700 square feet, making them the largest 3D-printed structures in the Americas.

“Constructing facilities using this cutting-edge technology saves labour costs, reduces planning time, and increases the speed of construction of future facilities,” said Army Lt Gen Doug Gabram, commander of US Army Installation Management Command. “We are looking at other ways to use this innovative technique for rapid construction of other types of facilities beyond barracks.”

The barracks will be the first 3D-printed structures that comply with the DOD’s newly released Unified Facilities Criteria for additive concrete construction, which provides guidance for DOD construction.

Previously, the Unified Facilities Criteria did not include specifications for 3D-printed concrete wall systems, preventing any companies that used this approach to construction from bidding on DOD construction projects and preventing DOD from leveraging the efficiencies gained from the technique.            

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Icon, a construction technology company based in Austin, Texas, was selected to do the work. The company had previously done 3D construction work with DIU for the Marine Corps.

Last year, the Texas Military Department partnered with Icon to design and 3D print a training barracks at the Camp Swift Training Center in Bastrop, Texas. The material used in the barracks construction is Icon’s proprietary Lavacrete, which is a type of high-strength concrete.

The material has been designed to withstand extreme weather and reduce the impact of natural disasters, while providing maximum efficiency. It can be printed at high speeds while retaining form, enabling structures to be built faster while keeping construction projects on schedule and on budget, according to Icon. The company claims that the building material will last longer than traditional construction materials and methods.

“We are proud to collaborate with the US Army and continue our partnership with DIU to see diverse use cases for Icon’s technology across the DOD and to deliver resilient, comfortable 3D-printed barracks for soldiers at Fort Bliss,” said Brendan O’Donoghue, vice president of public sector at Icon.  

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