We have been talking about 3D printing for quite some time now and the hype is here for a good reason; 3D printing has myriad of applications. US Army agrees with us and has been taking quite a lot of interest in 3D printing. In fact, the Marine Corps’ is researching into portable 3D printing labs. The highlight of this post, however, is a 3-year program of Army that has given an output of a 3D printed barracks that has been termed as B-Hut. The program is known as ‘Automated Construction of Expeditionary Structures’ or ACES. ACES has been looking into 3D printing for using it to create semi-permanent structures from concrete that was manufactured using locally available materials. The B-Hut was 3D printed at the Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) in Champaign, Illinois.
Dr. Michael Case, CERL ACES Program Manager said, “ACES provides a capability to print custom designed expeditionary structures on-demand, in the field, using locally available materials. ACES will allow the Army to print buildings and other required infrastructure, such as barriers, culverts and obstacles on location.”
The ACES initiative can reduce the amount of building materials that need to be shipped by 50%, potentially speaking, and can reduce the construction manpower needs by 62% as opposed to a expedient plywood construction.
The 3D printed B-Hut has been created using sturdy concrete and measures in at 512 sq. ft. NASA also collaborated on the project with CERL and was in charge of designing and building a dry goods delivery system that was utilized for the 3D printing of B-Hut. The duo is currently also working on the development of a 3D printer that will be making its way to the market in September this year.
Dr. Case further said, “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″ 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.”
US Army has taken quite a keen interest in 3D printing because of the features of 3D printing. The military, in essence, is basically a mobile organization and it greatly helps if it is capable of creating tools, supplies and shelters on the go when and if required. Thanks to B-Hut and the technology that has been exhibited, the army doesn’t need to pack that much of supplies because the concrete can be made from locally sourced materials.
ACES has been working on reinforced 3D printed concrete thus ensuring that the 3D printed structures are stable, safe and strong – just the way Army likes it. Such projects and their success is opening up many more possibilities for 3D printing in all aspects of life. Have you heard about the new 3D printers that Markforged has released? These 3D printers can print objects that are even stronger than steel! Check out the video from 2016 about ACES program for the creation of B-Hut.