US Marines Print Concrete Bridge, Barracks, and Bunker
The official website of the US Marine Corps released an August 2019 report detailing the progress of an advanced first-of-its-kind 3D printing exercise.
In collaboration with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL), Marine engineers successfully printed a series of concrete structures including a barracks and a bridge. Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) and marines from the 7th Engineering Support Battalion (ESB) combined forces to perfect 3D concrete printing techniques using a continuous mixer with a 2" pump and hose.
Now they're "pushing the technology forward", using the same continuous mixer with a 3" hose and nozzle, and the team foresees a 4" nozzle for even larger concrete construction projects in the near future.
Advancing from a 2" nozzle to 3" speeds up printing time significantly and allows the Marines to erect larger structures with less waste. According to project lead Meagan Kreiger of the Automated Construction of Expeditionary Structure or ACES team at CERL, the Marines were the first in the world to try out the larger bead systems and pumps.
7th ESB Marines came up with the CAD model which was sliced and fed into the printer to produce the bunker which will be tested and compared to a conventionally built model for blasting and demolition characteristics. The Marine combat engineers look forward to the day when small durable combat structures can be quickly printed and transported to operating posts in the field with less manpower and less material.
The ACES team data has some important implications for the future of printed concrete applications in the civil construction sector as well.
The Advantages of 3D Printed Concrete Structures
Captain Matthew Audette, project officer for the Advanced Manufacturing Operations Cell at MCSC, summed up the current status of concrete construction: "With vertical construction, we are still in the realm of what we were doing 100 years ago."
The ACES team data reveals an impressive list of advantages to be gained with 3D printed concrete technology including:
- reduces cost by 40 percent
- cuts construction time by 50 percent
- reduces concrete materials consumed by 44 percent
- wall strength is doubled
- thermal energy performance increases by 10 times
- reduces required manpower by 50 percent
- decreases the need for hard labor
3D Concrete Printing and the Future of Construction
The Innovative Manufacturing and Construction Research Centre (IMCRC) has produced an informative video at YouTube which looks at the intricate design implications and customizations that are made possible with advanced 3D concrete printing technology.
As far back as 2010, the IMCRC foresaw nothing less than a "new era of architecture" as 3D printed concrete components enable buildings of unprecedented geometrical complexity which are impossible to accomplish with concrete poured into a framework.
CAD models loaded directly to the printer can create precisely controlled voids to allow for pipes and cables, saving material and labor when integrating building systems later on in final construction. Whole building sections can be printed and shipped to the construction site with electrical, plumbing, and other building service systems already installed for huge savings in time, labor, and material.
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