Additive manufacturing processes—also known as 3D printing—are being used to make everything from medical devices to engine components, and now the U.S. Army is even using employing a similar technique to build concrete structures.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has devised a system that allows them to create lightweight concrete structures quickly with a massive 3D printer. Once the technique is perfected, Army officials expect that they will be able to build temporary structures in a fraction of the time it currently takes to build using conventional methods.
It’s probably no surprise that 3D printing concrete structures is no easy feat.
Normal concrete–which contains a mix of aggregates like crushed stone, sand, gravel, and more–tends to clog printing machinery and cause equipment failures. To overcome this issue, the Army created its own concrete mix with sand, fly ash, silica fume, clay, a liquid admixture and water. This concrete mix is then paired with mesh layers to build strong, durable structures.
Army officials are optimistic that they will find a variety of practical applications for its new concrete and 3D printing process. These include building concrete barriers, barracks, training facilities and more in areas with limited resources. In the future, businesses in the civilian sector may even adopt similar additive manufacturing techniques to build concrete structures in record time as well.
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