3D printing has found a plethora of applications in the military. The relatively new technology is not only portable but also highly inexpensive. The idea that 3D printing can potentially save countless lives if it can help soldiers get a safe barrack in lesser time led the US Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) to construct a prototype of a concrete barrack in less than two days by relying on a 3D printer. Reportedly, this 3D printed barrack has been constructed using the world’s largest 3D printer.
According to MCSC, this 3D printer is the world’s largest. The MCSC’s Additive Manufacturing Team in collaboration with I Marine Expeditionary Force built this prototype 3D printed barrack at the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Champaign, Illinois.
The 3D printed barrack is a basic barrack hut that measures in at 500 sq.ft and was built in under 40 hours. As per MCSC, it usually takes 10 Marines five days for constructing a similar hut using wood – thus it is quite an improvement.
Moving on to the technical side; the team began the project by using a computer model and a 3D printer. Once the print command was given, the process of construction was almost identical to how previous 3D-printed structures have been constructed. The cement was extruded using a nozzle in layers to construct the undulating walls. There’s no information about how the roofs, doors, and windows were added; the best guess would be that these tasks were handled by the US Marines manually.
As of now, the Marine Corps is conducting more research to figure out how technology can be used in the field and if the process can be refined even more. According to one suggestion; automating the pumping and mixing of the cement will speed up the progress to 24 hours instead of 40 hours. So, you will be able to get a 3D printed barrack in just a day!
MCSC Capt. Matthew Friedell said, ‘In active or simulated combat environments, we don’t want Marines out there swinging hammers and holding plywood up. Having a concrete printer that can make buildings on demand is a huge advantage for Marines operating down range.’
According to MCSC, it will be using this technology not only for military operations but also for humanitarian aid and relief mission. It believes that this can also help it to re-house people in need much more quickly. Friedell further added, ‘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. We can bring forward better structures, houses, and forward operating bases with less workforce and fewer Marines in harm’s way.’