US Marines 3D Print Concrete Barracks

AlphaAtlas

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In August, the US Marines built the world's first continuous, 3D printed concrete barracks. A joint effort between multiple US military divisions, the 500 square-foot barracks was printed in just 40 hours. The marines had to manually fill the printing machine with concrete and monitor its progress, but say the barracks could go up in under a day with another robot to mix and pump the concrete.

"In 2016, the commandant said robots should be doing everything that is dull, dangerous and dirty, and a construction site on the battlefield is all of those things," Friedell said. The ability to build structures and bases while putting fewer Marines in danger would be a significant accomplishment, he said. "In active or simulated combat environments, we don’t want Marines out there swinging hammers and holding plywood up," said Friedell. "Having a concrete printer that can make buildings on demand is a huge advantage for Marines operating down range."
 

lazz

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Do we see a future in which modern housing is mostly 3D printed? Seeing the stuff going up now I have to believe it would be a massive improvement in quality and consistency.
 
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DangerousMan

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Personally I think that prefab would be faster than this and be of higher quality.
This was done as a proof of concept for building fortified structures quickly in a war zone or to provide shelter in disaster areas, especially in already remote places. Trucking or flying in concrete prefabs to these types of locations is almost impossible and impractical. As per the article, it currently takes 10 soldiers about 5 days to build a wood barracks; with 3d printing it took 4 soldiers 40 hours, and that was with the soldiers doing the mixing. Article states that with automation the construction time would be about 24 hours for a 500sq foot concrete barracks.
 

Tweak42

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Interesting demonstration of tech. I'm not sure it's anywhere close to being used in on a battlefield, but lots of military devised tech has trickled down to practical civilian use so this may eventually be useful in our lifetime.
 

DNMock

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This was done as a proof of concept for building fortified structures quickly in a war zone or to provide shelter in disaster areas, especially in already remote places. Trucking or flying in concrete prefabs to these types of locations is almost impossible and impractical. As per the article, it currently takes 10 soldiers about 5 days to build a wood barracks; with 3d printing it took 4 soldiers 40 hours, and that was with the soldiers doing the mixing. Article states that with automation the construction time would be about 24 hours for a 500sq foot concrete barracks.

How do you think they will get all the concrete to the location? The amount of material used and it's weight doesn't change.

Now for commercial application this could be a real game changer like say for a construction company that pours beams for an overpass or if you water proof it, for piers, docks, and bridges cutting over lakes etc. etc.
 
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DrBorg

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You can bring in bags of concrete by hand; a military backpack used to be 88lbs, but that was in the 70's. :)

1000 soldiers=1000bags of concrete a day, up to about 20 miles.

Soldiers will not be happy, but they'll get over it when they have fortifications to sleep in, instead of under a deuce-and-a-half. :)

Today, we can put pallets of concrete almost anywhere, and a pressure truck for concrete is liftable by a Chinook. (empty)

Add a 3d printer attachment to a pressure truck, and you can go 50 feet high if you want. :)

This is going to be a great tech, when it's mature.

You can thin concrete with styrofoam to make it a better insulation, so you could layer the walls with varying types to make them thermal barriers as well.

Conduit preforms could be made for the walls, and dropped in as you get to that level; window frames, doors, everything embedded in the concrete, and hard to breach, if that's what you want.

Hmmm. Multiple layers, a few feet thick; I wonder how many layers you need to hold an RPG7? :)
 

seanreisk

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Hmmm. Multiple layers, a few feet thick; I wonder how many layers you need to hold an RPG7? :)

Way too many. This is a cool demonstration, but the press release has too much sunshine in it. The building material they used in this example is too brittle to stop bullets, let alone an RPG.

Some of the best battlefield protection is the gabions (Hesco Bastion) you see deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many people think they look crude or unprofessional (apparently several of our elected officials touring in the war zone have commented on this, with one even suggesting that nice concrete walls would give the enemy a better impression of American might), but for simplicity and effectiveness they can't be beat. If you watch documentaries like Restrepo you'll notice that the gabions are used on the perimeter and also as the walls of the hooches they lived in, forming a many-layered defense.

The concrete they've used to build these structures is aerated, plasticized and uses a lot of fiber-style filler. It isn't compacted or hardened, and it can't be or you wouldn't be able to print it. Until you've witnessed real bullets, RPGs, rocket launchers, grenade launchers and mortars it's hard to explain how poor aerated concrete is for defensive purposes. The spall liners you'd have to use for these structures would almost negate the advantages of printing them in the first place.
 

oldmanbal

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How do you think they will get all the concrete to the location? The amount of material used and it's weight doesn't change.

Now for commercial application this could be a real game changer like say for a construction company that pours beams for an overpass or if you water proof it, for piers, docks, and bridges cutting over lakes etc. etc.

Some prefer quality over quantity, especially businesses that don't need an emergency concrete fortification to house explosives and high value officers. Unions don't particularly like machines that wantonly replace humans, however there will be a point where it becomes inevitable.
 

Crackinjahcs

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Way too many. This is a cool demonstration, but the press release has too much sunshine in it. The building material they used in this example is too brittle to stop bullets, let alone an RPG.

Some of the best battlefield protection is the gabions (Hesco Bastion) you see deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many people think they look crude or unprofessional (apparently several of our elected officials touring in the war zone have commented on this, with one even suggesting that nice concrete walls would give the enemy a better impression of American might), but for simplicity and effectiveness they can't be beat. If you watch documentaries like Restrepo you'll notice that the gabions are used on the perimeter and also as the walls of the hooches they lived in, forming a many-layered defense.

The concrete they've used to build these structures is aerated, plasticized and uses a lot of fiber-style filler. It isn't compacted or hardened, and it can't be or you wouldn't be able to print it. Until you've witnessed real bullets, RPGs, rocket launchers, grenade launchers and mortars it's hard to explain how poor aerated concrete is for defensive purposes. The spall liners you'd have to use for these structures would almost negate the advantages of printing them in the first place.

+1. In Iraq most of our fortifications were HESCO. In Afghanistan most of what we had were Bremer walls - Jersey, Texas, and Alaska barriers of reinforced concrete. This 3d printed stuff looks like it will keep the weather off but I'd like to see some impact and blast testing.

edit: "our" and "we" denotes my personal experience not necessarily allied forces or operational theater as a whole.
 

seanreisk

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This 3d printed stuff looks like it will keep the weather off but I'd like to see some impact and blast testing.

I know you can't tell how strong it is by looking at a picture, but I know enough (too much) about concrete that I wouldn't feel confident. :cautious: If nothing else, a Ma Deuce would eat those walls up.

I think the television and movie industry has a lot to do with the misperception that Americans have about grenade and RPG explosions. Or even the effects of bullets. Even just the sound of bullets, although some of the newer video games do a spooky good job on bullet sounds.


P.S. I was watching a show with my niece that had a lot of footage of city fighting in Iraq, and she suddenly asked, "Why do they have those soldiers running down the street where they can get shot?" Before I could reply she said, "Why aren't the tanks in there? Why do they have soldiers running down the street instead of the tanks?"

And I said, "All the tanks are outside of town, praying that there is enough air support so that no one has to ask them to come into town at all. The tanks would rather just bulldoze the entire town to the ground than drive down any of those streets."


P.P.S. And speaking of Ma Deuce, another time I was having beers with my gamer friends and the venerable M2 came up as the topic. And one of my friends, who is a great war gamer but has never been in the military, said, "You would think by now they would have come up with a better weapon for mounting on vehicles than the M2."

Another friend, who had also been in the Army and just came back from a National Guard deployment to Afghanistan, looked at him, then looked at me. I shrugged my shoulders. Honestly, for the types of terrain and targets in Iraq and Afghanistan the M2 is lovely.
 

DangerousMan

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How do you think they will get all the concrete to the location? The amount of material used and it's weight doesn't change.

Now for commercial application this could be a real game changer like say for a construction company that pours beams for an overpass or if you water proof it, for piers, docks, and bridges cutting over lakes etc. etc.
Air dropping pallets of the raw materials is probably easier then air dropping say a hmmwv. You can get pretty close to a target location, using a helicopter can be even more precise. You cant drop a prefab, the impact on landing could crack the walls/shatter a roof, and then you still would need a way to move it. Also the size of an aircraft/helicopter needed to move a large prefab would have to be huge. With the raw materials you can move it in smaller bunches. In the article (and others like it) they say it can be easier to find cement/sand ect locally in foreign countries, compaired to finding wood ready to use in construction, so having a way to build a concrete structure fast is welcomed news. As for the printer itself, it most likely can be broken down into small manageable sections (or that would be something they are working to achieve,) so that not only would it be dropped with the soldiers but easily carried by them too.

Edit: for those wondering about protection in war zones; these would probably be mostly used as an upgrade on tents or other thin walled stuctures that can go up quick and provide at least some protection to small arms fire and maybe shrapnel before you can move in with the better things like hescos. Being automated would also have people exposed less. You could even print the temp walls on site quickly, and then fortify behind that cover.
 
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Uvaman2

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Its cool and all... But using the materals around you is where is at... And that usually means sand bags.. or glorified sand bags as previously posted.
 

SomeoneElse

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+1. In Iraq most of our fortifications were HESCO. In Afghanistan most of what we had were Bremer walls - Jersey, Texas, and Alaska barriers of reinforced concrete. This 3d printed stuff looks like it will keep the weather off but I'd like to see some impact and blast testing.

edit: "our" and "we" denotes my personal experience not necessarily allied forces or operational theater as a whole.
I dunno when you were in Afghanistan but when I was deployed there in 2006- 07, 90% of our bases were HESCOS with Concrete bunkers inside the walls to shelter from rocket attacks. I lived in a tent in FOB Salerno for over a year, then moved to Baghram AF where I had a wood hut. The outside perimeter was all HESCO.....you aren't getting thought through 4 feet of dirt with an AK round or an RPG. It required a serious explosion to open it up.
 

Crackinjahcs

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I dunno when you were in Afghanistan but when I was deployed there in 2006- 07, 90% of our bases were HESCOS with Concrete bunkers inside the walls to shelter from rocket attacks. I lived in a tent in FOB Salerno for over a year, then moved to Baghram AF where I had a wood hut. The outside perimeter was all HESCO.....you aren't getting thought through 4 feet of dirt with an AK round or an RPG. It required a serious explosion to open it up.


Ramadi, Iraq 2006-2007. Kandahar and Pasab, Afghanistan 2013-2014.
 

dreadcthulhu

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P.P.S. And speaking of Ma Deuce, another time I was having beers with my gamer friends and the venerable M2 came up as the topic. And one of my friends, who is a great war gamer but has never been in the military, said, "You would think by now they would have come up with a better weapon for mounting on vehicles than the M2."

Another friend, who had also been in the Army and just came back from a National Guard deployment to Afghanistan, looked at him, then looked at me. I shrugged my shoulders. Honestly, for the types of terrain and targets in Iraq and Afghanistan the M2 is lovely.

To be fair, there have been plenty of proposed & prototyped weapons to replace the M2, like the XM806 program, which was much lighter than the M2 while firing the same rounds. Though the Army decided the extra cost on implementing it wasn't worth the weight savings, since the gun is usually mounted on vehicles anyways. Personally, I don't think that the M2 will be replaced until the military gets some major improvement like the polymer-cased telescoped ammo working. Everyone would like more ammo for the same amount of weight.
 

sfsuphysics

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So 40 hours to build a 500 sqft barracks... which would be roughly 25 ft x 20 ft, how long to put up 1 tent that is the same size? I'm guessing considerably less, for way less money. Yeah I know, concrete is stronger to attacks than a tent, but if you're building your barracks that close to the front lines of fighting you're doing something wrong.
 

seanreisk

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To be fair, there have been plenty of proposed & prototyped weapons to replace the M2, like the XM806 program, which was much lighter than the M2 while firing the same rounds. Though the Army decided the extra cost on implementing it wasn't worth the weight savings, since the gun is usually mounted on vehicles anyways. Personally, I don't think that the M2 will be replaced until the military gets some major improvement like the polymer-cased telescoped ammo working. Everyone would like more ammo for the same amount of weight.

Yeah, there was also the M85, which was a terrible weapon. I mean, seriously awful, I don't know how a weapon like that can get through the Army's procurement process. I knew someone who had an M85 flash suppressor screwed on to the front of his hunting rifle, though. Pointless, but it was cool looking.

That's the thing, though - how did the M1911, the M2 Browning, the M1 Garand and the M14 all make it into service as successful, dependable, rugged battle equipment, all before the time of computer-aided design, automated precision manufacturing, and advanced materials?


P.S. During the last 17 years of the Afghanistan / Iraq wars the US Army has procured enough battle rifles to replace all of its inventory 3+ times. Why didn't we switch over to the M27?
 

Crackinjahcs

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So 40 hours to build a 500 sqft barracks... which would be roughly 25 ft x 20 ft, how long to put up 1 tent that is the same size? I'm guessing considerably less, for way less money. Yeah I know, concrete is stronger to attacks than a tent, but if you're building your barracks that close to the front lines of fighting you're doing something wrong.

It's not just attacks, but weather, longevity, noise, light, that "warm fuzzy" feeling you get from living in a solid structure after living in a tent, a vehicle, or nothing.

This structure should last multiple times longer than a tent, be more resistant to rain, wind, snow loads, block more noise for OPSEC and improved rest cycles, and be easier to heat and cool than a tent - which improve Soldier/Marine/Airman comfort and therefore morale and fighting ability.
 

motomonkey

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I know you can't tell how strong it is by looking at a picture, but I know enough (too much) about concrete that I wouldn't feel confident. :cautious: If nothing else, a Ma Deuce would eat those walls up.

I think the television and movie industry has a lot to do with the misperception that Americans have about grenade and RPG explosions. Or even the effects of bullets. Even just the sound of bullets, although some of the newer video games do a spooky good job on bullet sounds.


P.S. I was watching a show with my niece that had a lot of footage of city fighting in Iraq, and she suddenly asked, "Why do they have those soldiers running down the street where they can get shot?" Before I could reply she said, "Why aren't the tanks in there? Why do they have soldiers running down the street instead of the tanks?"

And I said, "All the tanks are outside of town, praying that there is enough air support so that no one has to ask them to come into town at all. The tanks would rather just bulldoze the entire town to the ground than drive down any of those streets."


P.P.S. And speaking of Ma Deuce, another time I was having beers with my gamer friends and the venerable M2 came up as the topic. And one of my friends, who is a great war gamer but has never been in the military, said, "You would think by now they would have come up with a better weapon for mounting on vehicles than the M2."

Another friend, who had also been in the Army and just came back from a National Guard deployment to Afghanistan, looked at him, then looked at me. I shrugged my shoulders. Honestly, for the types of terrain and targets in Iraq and Afghanistan the M2 is lovely.


I was a M2 gunner for a couple years, people just don’t have an understanding of how powerful it really is, and how much concrete you need to stop that massive projectile.

m4 carbine round, 62 grains at 2800 FPS
M2 round, 750 grains at 2700 FPS.

Give me a bit of time and a some black tips and I can make a hole in damn near anything.

Some interesting medium machine guns being fielded by SOCOM soon, the LWMMG using the 338 Norma magnum round is being evaluated as weapon with a longer effective range than an M2 at the same weight as the M240. Biggest downside is increased weight of ammunition over 7.62.
 
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