U.S. Department of Defense Building Largest 3D-Printed Structures In Western Hemisphere


A conceptual single-story building is pictured in a desert climate.
DOD Building Largest 3D-Printed Structures in Western Hemisphere

April 5, 2022  |  By David Vergun

The Defense Department, in partnership with the private sector, is building three transient training barracks using advanced 3D printing technology.

The project, which is being spearheaded by the Defense Innovation Unit, is expected to be completed within 10 months. At more than 5,700 square feet each, these barracks will each be the largest 3D-printed structures in the Americas.

“Constructing facilities using this cutting-edge technology saves labor costs, reduces planning time, and increases the speed of construction of future facilities,” Gabram said.

“We are looking at other ways to use this innovative technique for rapid construction of other types of facilities beyond barracks.” said Army Lt. Gen. Doug Gabram, commander of U.S. Army Installation Management Command. 

The barracks will be the first 3D-printed structures that comply with the DOD’s newly released Unified Facilities Criteria for additive concrete construction, which provides guidance for DOD construction.

Previously, the Unified Facilities Criteria did not include specifications for 3D-printed concrete wall systems, preventing any companies that used this novel approach to construction from bidding on DOD construction projects and preventing DOD from leveraging the efficiencies gained from this technique. 

This change to UFC by DOD’s Structural Discipline Working Group further enhances the technology transition led by the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center and DIU to leverage commercial innovation and incorporate novel, timesaving manufacturing methods within the DOD.

ICON, a construction technology company based in Austin, Texas, was selected to do the work. The company had previously done 3D construction work with DIU for the Marine Corps. Also, in 2021, the Texas Military Department partnered with ICON to design and 3D print an innovative training barracks at the Camp Swift Training Center in Bastrop, Texas.

 The material used in the barracks construction is ICON’s proprietary Lavacrete, which is a type of high-strength concrete with a compressive strength of 2,000 to 3,500 pounds per square inch, according to ICON. This material can withstand extreme weather and greatly reduce the impact of natural disasters, while providing maximum efficiency. It can be printed at high speeds while retaining form, enabling structures to be built faster while keeping construction projects on schedule and on budget, according to ICON. 

Also, the building material will last longer than traditional construction materials and methods, according to ICON. “We are proud to collaborate with the U.S. Army and continue our partnership with DIU to see diverse use cases for ICON’s technology across the DOD and to deliver resilient, comfortable 3D-printed barracks for soldiers at Fort Bliss,” said Brendan O’Donoghue, vice president of public sector at ICON.  

* Source: U.S. Department of Defense

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