Print a House with a 3D Printer

Do you know what’s amazing about 3D printers? They can print whatever we want them to print using whatever items we could think of at which ever place we want. We know that they can print food, wood, plastic and now, from a Champaign lab, 3D printers can also print concrete!

Yes, these new 3D printers can use locally available materials like sand, gravel and other such substances to print concrete structures at a fraction of the normal price.

In fact, a 512 square-foot concrete barracks hut or also known as the B-Hut was successfully printed using the Automated Construction of Expeditionary Structures (ACES) by the Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL) in Champaign, Illinois.

“ACES provides a capability to print custom designed expeditionary structures on-demand, in the field, using locally available materials. ACES will allow the Army to print buildings and other required infrastructure, such as barriers, culverts and obstacles on location.” – Dr. Michael Case, CERL ACES program manager

There are many benefits to these 3D printers. They can fit into a shipping container or in the back of a C-130 plane to be transported to the site easily. ACES also has the potential to reduce using building materials by half and reducing manpower by 62 per cent.

The ACES team designed, built, and validated an additive, three-dimensional concrete printing technology that is a real game changer. Unlike previous efforts, ACES can use up to 3/8” aggregate in the concrete that is used. In addition, the ACES project paid particular attention to methods of reinforcing printed concrete, both horizontally and vertically.” – Case

Because this project shows much promise, CERL has also teamed up with NASA to make ACES technology more mobile. In fact, NASA designed and built the dry goods delivery batching system that was used to print the B-Hut. Michael Fiske, a team leader of NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center, said NASA started exploring this possibility back in 2004.

However, the project was cancelled in 2007. In 2013, the Army Corps contacted NASA again and proposed a joint project to continue development of the mobile hardware needed to shape the materials. Now, NASA has high hopes for using this technology in outer space construction in the future.

Besides NASA, there is also a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement with Caterpillar Inc. to explore ACES technology for disaster relief operations. Eric A. Reiners, Caterpillar’s program manager for automation and site technologies, said the fit was natural.

“We already partner with the U.S. military on projects around the world and in rescue areas, and if one day there are building projects on Mars, we want to be there as well.” – Eric Reiners

Yes! My wish is finally coming true. Besides helping to build houses cheaply and quickly in disaster-prone areas, I can also 3D print my own mansion. I can only hope it can be done within the next five years. Better yet, I hope it can be printed while I’m happily staying in outer space.

(Photos by Heather Coit / The News-Gazette)

Sonam Chodron

Sonam Chodron is an avid traveler who loves writing about lifestyle and tech. She currently works as a full-time editor and English teacher.

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