US Army launches record-breaking 3D printing project

What the 3D printed barracks of Fort Bliss will look like (image by Logan Architecture)

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

The barracks will each be 5,700 square feet in size, making them the largest 3D printed structures in the Americas.

“Building facilities using this cutting-edge technology reduces labor costs, reduces planning time and speeds construction of future facilities,” said Lt. Gen. Doug Gabram, commander of the U.S. Army Installations Management Command. “We are investigating other ways to use this innovative technique for the rapid construction of other types of facilities beyond barracks.”

The barracks will be the first 3D-printed structures to meet the DOD’s Unified Facilities Criteria for Additive Concrete Construction, which provides guidance for DOD construction.

Previously, the Unified Installations Criteria did not include specifications for 3D-printed concrete wall systems, preventing any company that used this approach to construction from bidding on DOD construction projects and preventing the DOD from firing advantage of the efficiency gains achieved through the technique.

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Icon, an Austin, Texas-based construction technology company, was selected to carry out 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 Camp Swift Training Center in Bastrop, Texas. The material used in the construction of the barracks is Icon’s proprietary Lavacrete, which is a type of high strength concrete.

The material has been designed to withstand extreme weather conditions and reduce the impact of natural disasters, while providing maximum efficiency. It can be printed at high speed while maintaining its shape, allowing structures to be built faster while on time and on budget for construction projects, according to Icon. The company says the building material will last longer than traditional building materials and methods.

“We are proud to partner with the U.S. Army and continue our partnership with DIU to see various use cases for Icon’s technology across the DOD and to provide durable and comfortable 3D printed barracks to soldiers at Fort Bliss,” said Brendan O’Donoghue, vice president of public sector at Icon.

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