The US Department of Defense (DoD) is building three temporary training barracks that will each reportedly take the crown of the largest 3D printed structure in the Americas.
To be fabricated over the next 10 months by Texas-based construction 3D printing firm ICON, the barracks will each span more than 5,700 square feet and comply with the DoD’s newly released Unified Facilities Criteria for additive concrete construction.
“Constructing facilities using this cutting edge technology saves labor costs, reduces planning time, and increases the speed of construction of future facilities,” said Lt. Gen. Doug Gabram, commander of US Army Installation Management Command.
“We are looking at other ways to use this innovative technique for rapid construction of other types of facilities beyond barracks.”
ICON and the DoD’s partnership
The proposed barracks will surpass the DoD’s own record for the largest 3D printed structure in North America, another barracks building installed at the Camp Swift Training Center in Bastrop last year. The Camp Swift barracks structure is capable of holding up to 72 troops while they train for missions, and was also fabricated using ICON’s construction additive manufacturing technology.
Since its establishment in 2017, ICON has continued to improve upon its Vulcan 3D printing technology to construct large-scale builds ranging from housing communities for the homeless to lunar launch pads for NASA. Last year, the firm developed an upgraded version of its Vulcan 3D printing system that features the same Magma system and proprietary Lavacrete material as the original but can print bigger builds up to 3,000 square feet in size.
The firm has also worked on various defense-related projects in partnership with the US military, having 3D printed large vehicle hide structures for the US Marine Corps in 2020 and partnered with the US Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) to experiment with robotics, modeling software, and various materials to develop new military applications for a variety of commercial 3D printing technologies.
Benefits of 3D printing barracks
The project to create the three new transient barracks at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas, is being headed up by the DUI. The barracks will be the first 3D printed structures that comply with the DoD’s newly released Unified Facilities Criteria (UFC) for additive concrete construction.
Previously, the criteria did not include specifications for 3D printed concrete wall systems, preventing firms that use such construction 3D printing technologies from bidding on DoD construction projects. This also meant that the DoD could not leverage the substantial benefits and efficiencies offered by the technique in terms of cost, lead times, and materials efficiency.
The modifications to the UFC, overseen by the DoD’s Structural Discipline Working Group, will help to advance the technology transition to more novel, time-saving manufacturing methods like additive manufacturing with the DoD. Spearheading this transition are the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center and the DIU.
As a result, ICON was once again selected to deploy its construction 3D printing technology for the project. The firm’s Lavecrete high strength concrete will be used to fabricate the three 5,700 square foot barracks, with the material reportedly offering a compressive strength of between 2,000 and 3,500 pounds per square inch.
Lavacrete is capable of withstanding extreme weather conditions and is claimed to greatly reduce the impact of natural disasters, while also providing maximum efficiency. The material can be printed at high speeds using ICON’s Vulcan 3D printing system while retaining its form, enabling large-scale structures to be built rapidly. According to the company, this allows construction projects to remain on schedule and on budget.
Lavacrete is also slated to last longer than traditional construction materials and methods, while offering numerous efficiency and cost benefits.
“We are proud to collaborate with the US Army and continue our partnership with DIU to see diverse use cases for ICON’s technology across the DoD and to deliver resilient, comfortable 3D printed barracks for soldiers at Fort Bliss,” said Brendan O’Donoghue, Vice President of Public Sector at ICON.
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Featured image shows a concept image created by Logan Architecture shows digitally rendered plans for ICON’s 3D-printed barracks in Fort Bliss, Texas. Image via Logan Architecture.