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

By Cal Jeffrey · 21 replies
Sep 11, 2018
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  1. 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.

    Permalink to story.

  2. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 4,409   +2,954

    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...

    Last edited: Sep 11, 2018
    Loginhotmail36 likes this.
  3. m4a4

    m4a4 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,429   +995

    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?).
    stewi0001, Theinsanegamer and Reehahs like this.
  4. EClyde

    EClyde TS Evangelist Posts: 1,810   +668

    Marines! The few the proud and I doubt they wear tight pants
    Reehahs likes this.
  5. amghwk

    amghwk TS Guru Posts: 506   +309

    Every time I hear the word "marine", I'm reminded of the DOOM games.
  6. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 2,174   +1,593

    They might wear tight short shorts in bootcamp though
    EClyde likes this.
  7. p51d007

    p51d007 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,941   +1,208

    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.
  8. fps4ever

    fps4ever TS Guru Posts: 298   +285

    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.
  9. mbrowne5061

    mbrowne5061 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,179   +649

    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.
  10. Adhmuz

    Adhmuz TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,914   +699

    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.
  11. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 11,286   +4,941

    It would probably be best to bury those tents. Judging by the doors, they resemble underground bunkers to me.
  12. Vrmithrax

    Vrmithrax TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,453   +458

    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.
  13. fps4ever

    fps4ever TS Guru Posts: 298   +285

    As a layman here that makes more sense...thanks!
  14. Misagt

    Misagt TS Maniac Posts: 283   +202

    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 and cliffordcooley like this.
  15. Stiqy

    Stiqy TS Enthusiast Posts: 51   +45

    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.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2018
    Misagt likes this.
  16. m4a4

    m4a4 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,429   +995

    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...
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2018
  17. Vrmithrax

    Vrmithrax TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,453   +458

    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
  18. Outlander04

    Outlander04 TS Rookie Posts: 17   +6

    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
  19. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 5,292   +3,701

    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!
  20. mbrowne5061

    mbrowne5061 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,179   +649

    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.
  21. m4a4

    m4a4 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,429   +995

    ...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.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2018
  22. mbrowne5061

    mbrowne5061 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,179   +649

    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.

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