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Since the turn of the millennium, additive manufacturing or 3D printing has gone from strength to strength. The technique has moved rapidly from research labs to desktop 3D printers; it also has been used to build schools and pedestrian bridges around the globe. How could the U.S. military be left out of this revolution? Their inclusion comes with the printing of the largest facility in North America, barracks at Camp Swift in Bastrop, Texas. 

Designed by Logan Architecture, the barracks were brought into reality using the Vulcan construction system from the printing company, Icon. 

Built over an area of 3,800 square feet (353 square meters), the barracks are big enough to house 72 trainees at the military base. “Guardsmen from all over Texas come to Camp Swift to train and to mobilize for deployments,” said Col. Zebadiah Miller, in a press release from Texas Military Department. He also expects them to “last for decades” since they aren’t built out for temporary purposes. 

Icon uses a proprietary construction material to build its structures. Using its next-generation Vulcan printer, the company has demonstrated that it can build permanent structures at increased speeds for the U.S. military. The technology is now being evaluated to rapidly build facilities for soldiers at forward-deployed locations and reduce construction risks while saving time and costs for the U.S. military. 

Icon also wants to deploy this technology for the National Guard that carries out relief missions during natural disasters. Compared to traditional building methods, 3D printing can deliver faster rebuilds at reduced costs, thereby helping the local communities, the company said in its press release.

The project was funded by the Small Business Innovation Research Strategic Fund Increase contracts to which the Texas Military Department contributed. The facility was unveiled earlier this month and will begin housing trainees starting this fall.

“Texas has become a technological center of gravity within the nation,” said Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, Adjutant General of Texas. “TMD is proud to be a conduit for introducing these innovative solutions into the military community.” 

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