Marines 3D-print concrete barracks in just 40 hours

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Marines have used a specialized 3D concrete printer to print a 500-square-foot barracks room in just 40 hours.

The innovative project created the world’s first continuous 3D-printed concrete barracks, according to the Marine Corps.

The barracks room was built earlier this month at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Champaign, Ill. Army and Navy Seabees were also involved in the construction effort.

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Harnessing the world’s largest concrete printer, the Additive Manufacturing Team at Marine Corps Systems Command teamed up with Marines from I Marine Expeditionary Force.

The world’s largest concrete 3D printer constructs a 500-square-foot barracks hut at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in mid-August in Champaign, Illinois. (U.S. Marine Corps courtesy photo)

“This exercise had never been done before,” said Capt. Matthew Friedell, Additive Manufacturing project officer in MCSC’s Operations and Programs/G-3, in a statement. “People have printed buildings and large structures, but they haven’t done it onsite and all at once. This is the first-in-the-world, onsite continuous concrete print.”

Using Computer Aided Design software on a 10-year-old computer, the concrete was pushed through a print head and layered repeatedly to build the barracks room walls. Friedell said that the job took 40 hours because Marines were carefully monitoring the project and continually filling the printer with concrete. However, if a robot was used to do the mixing and pumping, the building could be built in 24 hours, he added.

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Normally, it takes 10 Marines five days to construct a barracks hut out of wood.

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Marines from I Marine Expeditionary Force monitor the computer while the world’s largest concrete 3D printer constructs a 500-square-foot barracks hut at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Champaign, Illinois. (U.S. Marine Corps Courtesy Photo)

Set against this backdrop, the construction technology could help keep U.S. military personnel safe.

“In active or simulated combat environments, we don’t want Marines out there swinging hammers and holding plywood up,” said Friedell. “Having a concrete printer that can make buildings on demand is a huge advantage for Marines operating down range.”

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More testing will now be done on the Marines’ new barracks-building technology.

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Marines from I Marine Expeditionary Force learn how to operate the world’s largest concrete 3D printer as it constructs a 500-square-foot barracks hut at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Champaign, Illinois. (U.S. Marine Corps Courtesy Photo)

The construction industry is keen to tap into the power of 3D-printing. Last year, for example, experts at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands produced the world’s first 3D-printed reinforced, pre-stressed concrete bridge. The cycle bridge is part of a new road around the village of Gemert in southern Holland.

One of the big advantages of 3D-printed concrete is that much less concrete is needed compared to the traditional technique of filling a mold with concrete, according to experts from Eindhoven University of Technology.

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

In 2015, 3D-printing was used in the construction of a five-story apartment complex and an 11,840 square foot villa in Suzhou, China.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers





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