Forget fancy houses and high-design benches—the next big use for 3D printing is far less glamorous and far more practical. The U.S. Marine Corps recently finished its first 3D-printed barracks, and it’s a sign of what’s to come for rapid-built housing.
Using the world’s largest 3D printer, the Marine Corps’ Automated Construction of Expeditionary Structures initiative teamed up with the I Marine Expeditionary Force to print a 512-square-foot “B-Hut” in 40 hours. The design, a collaboration with architecture firm Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill (SOM), has a simple rectangular form with cut outs for windows, but its walls are designed in an unusual zig zag shape, which the Marines claim is 2.5 times stronger than a straight reinforced concrete wall.
The military has been experimenting with 3D printing in various forms for years, but housing is an immediate and practical application. Building barracks is an unnecessary drain on resources, seeing as it can take five Marines ten days to build a typical wooden hut. “In active or simulated combat environments, we don’t want Marines out there swinging hammers and holding plywood up,” said Capt. Matthew Friedell, who is leading the project. “Having a concrete printer that can make buildings on demand is a huge advantage for Marines operating down range.”
For the first 3D-printed barrack, the team used a ten-year-old computer and relied on Marines to feed the printer with concrete. Left to the robots, the team says the structures can be built in well under a day.