Army enhances 3-D technology to build structures

by Michael Jazdyk
U.S. Army

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- The Construction Engineering Research Laboratory in Champaign, Illinois, has successfully three-dimensionally printed a 512 square-foot concrete structure.

The structure, called a barracks hut or B-Hut, was printed as a result of a three year Army Program called the "Automated Construction of Expeditionary Structures." It uses an additive manufacturing process to "print" semi-permanent structures in a theater of operation. The ability to use concrete sourced from readily available materials reduces logistical requirements for the U.S. Army.

"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," said Dr. Michael Case, CERL ACES program manager.

ACES has the potential to reduce building materials shipped by half and reduce construction manpower requirements by 62 percent when compared to expedient plywood construction.

CERL has also teamed with NASA to make ACES technology more mobile. NASA designed and built a dry goods delivery batching system that was used to print the B-Hut. CERL is currently working with NASA to design, build and test a third generation concrete printer that will be delivered in September 2017. NASA plans to explore additive construction of extraterrestrial infrastructure in the future.

ERDC has also established a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with Caterpillar Inc. to explore commercialization of ACES technology, with the potential application for disaster relief operations and conventional construction.

"The ACES team designed, built, and validated an additive, three-dimensional concrete printing technology that is a real game changer," said Case. "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."

CERL is an integral component of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, headquartered in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

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