News | Aug 13, 2018

Marines evaluate Army’s 3-D cement printer in all-night construction project

Businesses interested in commercializing the technology can apply for a patent license

News Article Image of Marines evaluate Army’s 3-D cement printer in all-night construction project

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)

Champagne, Ill. – The 1st Marine Expeditionary Force used a large-scale 3-D cement printer invented by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct a building in about 24 hours.

The Marines evaluated the 3-D printer technology for potential adoption from August 1–3 at the Army Corps’ Construction Engineering Research Laboratory.

“So, this could provide a cost-savings measure, flexibility, and efficiencies when and where we need them,” Captain Matthew Friedell, Rapid Sustainment Project Officer with Marine Corps Systems Command, told Marine Minute.

Captain Matthew Friedell, Marine Corps Systems Command, is leading the Corps’ adoption of additive manufacturing processes in warfighter logistics. (Troy Saunders/USMC)

“As an expeditionary force in readiness, we’re expected to be prepared for the unexpected. Using technologies like these enable us to make those decisions and provide material solutions to those problems faster,” he said.

The Army’s 3-D cement printer can build custom expeditionary structures such as barracks, barriers, and culverts, on-demand and in the field.

And by using locally-sourced materials, the cement printer has the potential to reduce building materials shipped and reduce construction manpower requirements, as compared to expedient plywood construction.

Unlike other 3-D printers, the Army’s design can use up to 3/8-inch aggregate in the concrete. The structures can include horizontal and vertical reinforcements for strength.

News Article Image of Marines evaluate Army’s 3-D cement printer in all-night construction project

Personnel from the Marine Corps and Army Corps of Engineers build a concrete structure using a large-scale 3-D printer.

Troy Saunders/USMC

In March, the Army applied for three U.S. patents that make up the large-scale 3-D printer. Businesses that would like to commercialize the technology, for military or civilian customers, can license the patent rights.

TechLink, the Department of Defense’s national partnership intermediary, is ready to guide companies, large and small, through the military’s patent licensing process at no cost.

Since 1999, the non-profit center has helped DoD laboratories license over 1,000 inventions to industry. Quinton King, senior technology manager at TechLink, is the point of contact for licensing the Army’s 3-D cement printer.

“Not only are these structures more durable, but think about how much the Department of Defense spends on heating and cooling insulation inefficient plywood huts and tents used by the troops overseas,” King said. “But it’s also great to see inter-service collaboration on emerging technologies. We’re here to help companies get started on developing this for both military or civil applications.”