The whole attempt aims to efficiently construct safe barracks with precast roofs and 3-D printed walls in a small amount of time. Until now, up to 32x16x9.5 (Length x Width x Height) foot barracks made from about 25 cubic yards of concrete, were realized. The project, named Automated Construction of Expeditionary Structures (ACES), will also investigate printing concrete roof beams in the future. “This exercise had never been done before,” said project officer Captain Matthew Friedell. “People have printed buildings and large structures, but they haven’t done it on site and all at once. This is the first-in-the-world, on-site continuous concrete print.”
Engineering experts from the Chicago office of Skidmore, Owings & Merril studied and conducted tests in order to optimize the project. They showed that 3-D printing can be about 5 times quicker than the current wood-framed barracks approach. ACES utilizes less money and manpower than any other construction method. Researchers also state that it would take just three trained crew members per shift for three continuous printing sessions to build the barracks. Moreover, by using concrete from local sources, the need to ship construction materials for conventional barracks would be eliminated. Captain Matthew Friedell states: “This capability would enable a great partnership with the local community because it is low cost, easy to use, and robotics could print the buildings. We can bring forward better structures, houses and forward operating bases with less manpower and fewer Marines in harm’s way.”
Even if 3-D printed construction is the new trend, it should be pointed out that it is not flawless yet. Skidmore, Owings & Merril state that the printing process must not be interrupted in order to avoid structural imperfections and that it is absolutely necessary to pre-test concrete's performance. Furthermore, ACES utilizes a chevron design that undulates, changing direction every two feet so that cracks from shrinkage will not occur. Tests to improve the procedure will continue the next months. In 2019, ACES hopes to realize 4-5 such projects in the field.