The US Army has found an intriguing new use for 3D printing

US 3D printing
(Image credit: Department of Defense)

The US Army could soon be living in entirely 3D-printed structures under new plans from the US Department of Defense

The DoD announced a plan to 3D print three barracks, each measuring 5,700 square feet, which would be the largest 3D printed structures in the Americas and, indeed, Western hemisphere.

It added that should be completed within around 10 months, a pretty lightning fast timeframe for such a huge project. 

3D printed US Army barracks

"Constructing facilities using this cutting-edge technology saves labor costs, reduces planning time, and increases the speed of construction of future facilities," said Army Lt. Gen. Doug Gabram. "We are looking at other ways to use this innovative technique for rapid construction of other types of facilities beyond barracks."

Starting with barracks, which will be located at Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas, makes sense: the costs if something goes wrong are fairly low. 

The plan is only possible because the DoD changed its rules around building materials and techniques to make 3D printing acceptable. Previously, the Army didn't allow 3D printed concrete wall systems but this has since been changed.

US 3D printing

(Image credit: Department of Defense)

Printing heaven 

The news also sees the US Army stealing the title of largest 3D printed structure from itself. The previous record was held by the Texas Military Department, which built a 3,800 square foot, 72-bunk barracks in 2021 in partnership with ICON. 

In that case, the US Army used Lavacrete, a high-strength concrete, to build the structure. The material can withstand extreme heat and pressure. 

Crucially, Lavacrete can also be printed at high speeds while keeping its form. It's easy to imagine that the eventual applications of these experiments with 3D printing is building structures quickly in war zones. 

Max Slater-Robins has been writing about technology for nearly a decade at various outlets, covering the rise of the technology giants, trends in enterprise and SaaS companies, and much more besides. Originally from Suffolk, he currently lives in London and likes a good night out and walks in the countryside.