News | May 31, 2018

Mobile concrete printer can build housing in hours

Businesses can license the patent-pending technology for product development

News Article Image of Mobile concrete printer can build housing in hours

A barracks hut constructed with the patent-pending Automated Construction of Expeditionary Structures system. The new construction technology reduces building materials shipped by half and construction manpower requirements by 62 percent compared to expedient plywood construction in overseas military construction. This hut resides at the Construction Engineering Research Laboratory in Champaign, Illinois. (Michael Jazdyk/Army)

Researchers from the Army’s Construction Engineering Research Laboratory have created a robotic 3-D printer system that built a house in less than a day.

The 16-by-32 foot long structure constructed at the lab facility in Champaign, Illinois, was modeled after a the B-hut barracks commonly built to house troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The proven prototype, called the Automated Construction of Expeditionary Structures (ACES), is a scalable 3-D printer fed with a locally-sourced concrete mix. The automated system requires few operators and can be palletized for easy transport.

The big advantage over competing systems is ACES’ ability to use up to three-eighths inch aggregate in the concrete that is used.

“ACES provides a capability to print custom designed expeditionary structures on-demand, in the field, using locally available materials. ACES will allow the Army to print buildings and other required infrastructure, such as barriers, culverts, and obstacles on location,” said Dr. Michael Case, the program manager who managed its development.

News Article Image of Mobile concrete printer can build housing in hours

The printing head's precision delivery allows the concrete to be quickly layered from the ground up.

Mike Jazdyk/Army

Businesses that would like to develop ACES into a new product or service for their customers are in luck. The Army submitted patent applications to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which were made public in March, paving the way for the technology to be transferred to industry.

TechLink, the Department of Defense’s national partnership intermediary, is ready to guide companies, large and small, through the patent licensing process. Since 1999, the non-profit center has helped DoD laboratories license over 1,000 inventions to industry.

“The ACES team built and validated an amazing 3-D printer,” said Quinton King, senior technology manager at TechLink. “Unlike other big printers, ACES can use large aggregate in the concrete mix and the structures are both horizontally and vertically reinforced, which makes it viable for commercial applications.”

Headshot Image of Quinton King, PhD, CLP

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