US Marines construct the world's first 3D-printed barracks hut

Cal Jeffrey

TS Evangelist
Staff member

Last month we reported on how researchers had used multiple mobile robots to print a large scale concrete structure. The continuous construct was maybe a foot high and several feet long. The United States Marines apparently got wind of the effort and said, “Here. Hold our beer."

The Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) reports that it has constructed the “world’s first continuous 3D-printed concrete barracks." The feat was a joint effort between the MCSC’s Additive Manufacturing Team (AM), the I Marine Expeditionary Force, and the US Navy Seabees using the largest 3D concrete printer in the world located at the US Army Engineer Research Center in Champaign, Illinois.

The 500-square-foot structure was built in just 40 hours. By way of comparison, it usually takes a team of 10 Marines five days to construct a barracks out of wood. It only took four people to operate the printer, and that was just because two were needed to mix the concrete. There are plans in the works to employ robots to do the mixing in the future.

"In active or simulated combat environments, we don’t want Marines out there swinging hammers and holding plywood up," said MCSC Captain Matthew Friedell, who led the AM project. "Having a concrete printer that can make buildings on demand is a huge advantage for Marines operating down range."

The technology is not only useful for constructing housing for soldiers. Friedell says that the Navy and Marine Corps are usually the first military personnel on-site at natural disasters. While handing out food and water is not all that complicated, providing shelter for disaster victims is challenging, if not impossible. The technology would allow them to fabricate houses, schools, and community centers quickly during disaster relief missions.

"This capability [large-scale 3D printing] would enable a great partnership with the local community because it is low cost, easy to use, and robotics could print the buildings," said Friedell. "We can bring forward better structures, houses, and forward operating bases with less manpower and fewer Marines in harm’s way."

Engineers are still working on and testing the system to make it more, if not fully, autonomous.

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VitalyT

Russ-Puss
The 500-square-foot structure was built in just 40 hours. By way of comparison, it usually takes a team of 10 Marines five days to construct a barracks out of wood.
Let's cut the crap. A team of 10 marines can raise a portable barrack in under 20 mins.

40 hours of 3D-printing a barrack puts you at risk that by the time you finish the war will be over.

And if you want something more solid, these days you can use concrete canvas...

 
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m4a4

TS Evangelist
The 500-square-foot structure was built in just 40 hours. By way of comparison, it usually takes a team of 10 Marines five days to construct a barracks out of wood.
Let's cut the crap. A team of 10 marines can raise a portable barrack in under 20 mins.
40 hours of 3D-printing a barrack puts you at risk that by the time you finish the war will be over.
And if you want something more solid, these days you can use concrete canvas...
Yeah, lets cut the crap and actually think about it.

Why mention a portable barracks when the structure is obviously meant to be sturdy, not quick? They quote 5 days for 10 guys to make one out of wood (seems a little long to me, but it's not a quick 20min tent).
And, the main thing to be considered is that it has to hold up to a certain standard. Who cares if it can be put up fast and cheap if it will get shredded like paper. You can bet that the 3D printed solution is also up to standard for stopping bullets and other threats (hence why the walls also have such angles). Can you say the same for a concrete canvas building? (it's a legit question, as it looks like it will not with how "thin" it is)

That said, the concrete canvas is pretty cool, but it will also need to be improved upon too (like a pair of windows, more form control for better space management, support for more rooms?).
 

p51d007

TS Evangelist
And this is "first gen" stuff. Will be interesting to see how this technology improves over time.
I just hope the "ink" cartridges aren't priced for this, like they are for ink printers LOL.
 

fps4ever

TS Evangelist
That looks incredibly inefficient for temporary housing. And they compare it building one from scratch with wood. Um, we already have modular buildings that can be put up in a day. Now you have to bring in materials and robots/printers then print it and lastly build it.
 

mbrowne5061

TS Evangelist
The 500-square-foot structure was built in just 40 hours. By way of comparison, it usually takes a team of 10 Marines five days to construct a barracks out of wood.
Let's cut the crap. A team of 10 marines can raise a portable barrack in under 20 mins.
40 hours of 3D-printing a barrack puts you at risk that by the time you finish the war will be over.
And if you want something more solid, these days you can use concrete canvas...
Yeah, lets cut the crap and actually think about it.

Why mention a portable barracks when the structure is obviously meant to be sturdy, not quick? They quote 5 days for 10 guys to make one out of wood (seems a little long to me, but it's not a quick 20min tent).
And, the main thing to be considered is that it has to hold up to a certain standard. Who cares if it can be put up fast and cheap if it will get shredded like paper. You can bet that the 3D printed solution is also up to standard for stopping bullets and other threats (hence why the walls also have such angles). Can you say the same for a concrete canvas building? (it's a legit question, as it looks like it will not with how "thin" it is)

That said, the concrete canvas is pretty cool, but it will also need to be improved upon too (like a pair of windows, more form control for better space management, support for more rooms?).
While your right in general about the portable barrack not really being a good comparison, you're wrong about its construction. That corrugation is there to lend the walls stability, not to make them stronger against impact. While they do increase the thickness of the wall like sloped armor in general does, I doubt those walls would stand up to too much abuse; certainly not shrapnel from a mortar or multiple bullet impacts in any kind of grouping.
 

Adhmuz

TechSpot Paladin
40 hours of 3D-printing a barrack puts you at risk that by the time you finish the war will be over.
You can't be serious, what US war has ended in under 40 hours? That's the most absurd thing I've ever heard... US wars last years.
 

cliffordcooley

TS Redneck
That said, the concrete canvas is pretty cool, but it will also need to be improved upon too (like a pair of windows, more form control for better space management, support for more rooms?).
It would probably be best to bury those tents. Judging by the doors, they resemble underground bunkers to me.
 

Vrmithrax

TechSpot Paladin
That looks incredibly inefficient for temporary housing. And they compare it building one from scratch with wood. Um, we already have modular buildings that can be put up in a day. Now you have to bring in materials and robots/printers then print it and lastly build it.
Transporting in a truck of equipment, then raw materials, is FAR more efficient overall than it would bringing in modular buildings, and much easier to get into difficult terrain. Modular buildings are bulky to transport typically, but you are correct in that they assemble ridiculously fast in comparison. I think they are concentrating in this article more on the flexibility to get into and build support structures in non-ideal locations and situations - just a typical day in a Marine's life.
 

fps4ever

TS Evangelist
Transporting in a truck of equipment, then raw materials, is FAR more efficient overall than it would bringing in modular buildings, and much easier to get into difficult terrain. Modular buildings are bulky to transport typically, but you are correct in that they assemble ridiculously fast in comparison. I think they are concentrating in this article more on the flexibility to get into and build support structures in non-ideal locations and situations - just a typical day in a Marine's life.
As a layman here that makes more sense...thanks!
 

Misagt

TS Evangelist
I see big issues with the statement. "took 40 hours" it's actually 160 hours as it was a four man crew, they didn't finish the building it's just walls, no windows no doors.

This idea that it would take 400 hours to put up a similar structure is insane. I don't know how quickly they work in the marines but I do know framers can finish a 1200 sqft house in half that time. The roof, windows doors and all. This is also includes interior walls, stairs and floor. These guys only printed the walls nothing else. If they did a proper comparison I'm guessing their numbers would horrible in comparison.
 

Stiqy

TS Enthusiast
I see big issues with the statement. "took 40 hours" it's actually 160 hours as it was a four man crew, they didn't finish the building it's just walls, no windows no doors.

This idea that it would take 400 hours to put up a similar structure is insane. I don't know how quickly they work in the marines but I do know framers can finish a 1200 sqft house in half that time. The roof, windows doors and all. This is also includes interior walls, stairs and floor. These guys only printed the walls nothing else. If they did a proper comparison I'm guessing their numbers would horrible in comparison.
Yeah their numbers look super sketchy. Like they are intentionally fudging them to make the printing look better. 8 guys with a pile of 2x4's and plywood could frame in a 500 sqft box with a floor and a roof in 12 hours. Easy. And you don't need computers, a robotics technician, electric power, spare parts... or any of the other complicated crap this needs to be functional on battlefield in a foreign nation. The more complex a solution is the more things that can go wrong. I'll bet 8 nail guns, 2 skill saws, a box of nails and a pile of lumber is far more reliable than keeping robots functioning in the field. But all these things start impractically ... in 20 years this may be a solution.
 
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m4a4

TS Evangelist
While your right in general about the portable barrack not really being a good comparison, you're wrong about its construction. That corrugation is there to lend the walls stability, not to make them stronger against impact. While they do increase the thickness of the wall like sloped armor in general does, I doubt those walls would stand up to too much abuse; certainly not shrapnel from a mortar or multiple bullet impacts in any kind of grouping.
Last I checked, a deflected bullet does less damage than a bullet hitting straight on. And also, last I checked, stability would play a part in helping it stand up to threats lol.

Also, we don't know what concrete mix they're using. I doubt it's a standard, brittle concrete that wouldn't stand up to much punishment...
 
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Vrmithrax

TechSpot Paladin
I think this is more about implications for the future. Besides the options of flexibly creating shelters in disaster areas (which is still a ways off), imagine the tactical benefits if this process gets more automated and robotics incorporated... Pick a spot, drop in an autonomous robot construction crew, and the marines show up to a freshly printed forward operating base. Heh
 

Outlander04

TS Rookie
The 500-square-foot structure was built in just 40 hours. By way of comparison, it usually takes a team of 10 Marines five days to construct a barracks out of wood.
Let's cut the crap. A team of 10 marines can raise a portable barrack in under 20 mins.
40 hours of 3D-printing a barrack puts you at risk that by the time you finish the war will be over.
And if you want something more solid, these days you can use concrete canvas...
Yeah, lets cut the crap and actually think about it.

Why mention a portable barracks when the structure is obviously meant to be sturdy, not quick? They quote 5 days for 10 guys to make one out of wood (seems a little long to me, but it's not a quick 20min tent).
And, the main thing to be considered is that it has to hold up to a certain standard. Who cares if it can be put up fast and cheap if it will get shredded like paper. You can bet that the 3D printed solution is also up to standard for stopping bullets and other threats (hence why the walls also have such angles). Can you say the same for a concrete canvas building? (it's a legit question, as it looks like it will not with how "thin" it is)

That said, the concrete canvas is pretty cool, but it will also need to be improved upon too (like a pair of windows, more form control for better space management, support for more rooms?).
That much unreinforced concrete would definitely stop incoming paintball rounds , but after that I think it might start showing some vulnerabilities .
And the technology is not new to anyone but the marines . Its been in use for a couple of years by other research teams who manage much better results . The advantage of this kind of structure is its relative permanence , and its insulation values . Much better in a hot , or cold , climate than a tent
 

Uncle Al

TS Evangelist
Well, let's remember this is their own 1st generation stuff so as it evolves we might be seeing a LOT of improvement. Personally, I'd wait the 40 hours. It beats sitting under a shelter half in a driving rain in El Salvador trying to fill out paperwork ..... oh yeah, been there & done that ... several times!
 

mbrowne5061

TS Evangelist
Last I checked, a deflected bullet does less damage than a bullet hitting straight on. And also, last I checked, stability would play a part in helping it stand up to threats lol.

Also, we don't know what concrete mix they're using. I doubt it's a standard, brittle concrete that wouldn't stand up to much punishment...
A deflected bullet looses speed and begins to tumble. A slow, tumbling bullet does more internal damage than a fast, stable bullet does. The fast bullets passes through, and once you stop the bleeding, you usually live. The slower, tumbling bullet may not exit the body, and will likely do far more damage as it enters the body.This was part of the reason why the US switched to short barrel guns during the Vietnam war, to force VC to spend more on healing their wounded and spend time evacuating soldiers. The shorter barrels meant that a bullet was more likely to start tumbling inside the body upon impact.

All concrete is brittle. Some less brittle than others, but all are brittle. If you want it to stand up to shock, you need to add reinforcements like rebar. With a layered design, you need the rebar to pass between the layers. That didn't happen here. This structure would almost certainly fail against the same shock test a typical wooden shelter put up by the marines would pass.
 

m4a4

TS Evangelist
A deflected bullet looses speed and begins to tumble. A slow, tumbling bullet does more internal damage than a fast, stable bullet does. The fast bullets passes through, and once you stop the bleeding, you usually live. The slower, tumbling bullet may not exit the body, and will likely do far more damage as it enters the body.This was part of the reason why the US switched to short barrel guns during the Vietnam war, to force VC to spend more on healing their wounded and spend time evacuating soldiers. The shorter barrels meant that a bullet was more likely to start tumbling inside the body upon impact.

All concrete is brittle. Some less brittle than others, but all are brittle. If you want it to stand up to shock, you need to add reinforcements like rebar. With a layered design, you need the rebar to pass between the layers. That didn't happen here. This structure would almost certainly fail against the same shock test a typical wooden shelter put up by the marines would pass.
...What the heck are you talking about? A deflected bullet on a structure does less damage. We're not talking about anything else.

And they can add reinforcement to the mix (little fibers or rods). Again, we do not know what they used for concrete mix. There are concrete mixes that are more ductile/durable.
 
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mbrowne5061

TS Evangelist
...What the heck are you talking about? A deflected bullet on a structure does less damage. We're not talking about anything else.

And they can add reinforcement to the mix (little fibers or rods). Again, we do not know what they used for concrete mix. There are concrete mixes that are more ductile/durable.
Deflected bullets lose their spin and begin to tumble, they don't lose too much speed. A bullet that has ricocheted can actually do more harm than one that has not. It won't penetrate all the way through the body, and if you take a hit to your torso, it can do pretty serious damage to your internal organs. Most structures designed to keep their occupants safe from these sorts of threats are designed to capture the projectiles inside their walls, not 'deflect them' in some random direction.

Concrete doesn't work like that. You can't just add "little fibers or rods" and magically make it more ductile. If that was the case, you could just throw in random "fibers or rods" into something like epoxy and get something equivalent to fiberglass. The ductility comes from the 'rods' (glass fibers, plastic fibers, rebar) running the length of the brittle material. The rods in a composite material like this can only lend their strength to resist forces applied along their axis, not across. This is why you see rebar and the glass fiber sheets for fiberglass have criss-crossing patterns. This is why fiberglass is stronger when pulled, but weaker when compressed, and weakest when in a shear-mode. If you throw/mix in a bunch of short little 'rods' regardless of their length, they can only resist pulling for their immediate length; at their ends, the energy goes right back into the concrete and the concrete begins to fail. If you throw in long random fibers (think 'furball' or 'rats nest' inside the structure), the fibers just get pulled apart as the the concrete is.

Are material scientists experimenting with trying to add mix-ins to turn concrete into a 'pourable composite'? Yes. Have the succeeded? No. Everyone from the military to private construction is pouring money into R&D for this, my school actually had one of the premier concrete labs in the world, and the most promising new concrete they had was replacing the metal rebar with plastic (avoids cracking from corrosion), but that has its own problems in terms of strength.

Also, just consider that this was an experiment. Using some kind of super-secret super-concret would eliminate controls placed on it; they're testing the viability and strength of a printed structure, not the concret. They also wouldn't have just posted on the internet about it if it involved some kind of experimental concrete mix.