Marine Innovation Unit Observes Additive Construction

A Marine Innovation Unit (MIU) representative observed a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers demonstration of automated additive construction techniques at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, October 19, 2023.

Marine Corps Maj. Max Wineland, a special operations command liaison officer representing MIU, observed the technique used to build a concrete structure and perform blast testing conducted on a 3D printed structure. The event was held to help educate service members on this technology and create a new way to quickly build safe and reliable structures.

“There were two main reasons the MIU got involved,” said Wineland. “One, there was a call to bring in subject matter experts to participate in the build using this 3D printing technique to provide the team feedback. The second main reason is so that we’re staying abreast of new and upcoming technology that is being developed by the Army Corps of Engineers that the Marine Corps might be interested in pursuing in the future.”

Before the blast, participants began learning about this technology in a classroom setting.

people speaking in the rain
Members of the Marine Innovation Unit, along with the Army Corps of Engineers, discuss the conducting of a controlled detonation on a new 3D-printed concrete structure at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, October 19, 2023. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jonathan L. Gonzalez)

“We trained Air Force, Army and Marines on how to go through and print,” said Megan Krieger, program manager of the additive construction program, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “We were in a classroom setting where we trained them on everything from the materials development all the way through to operating the computer and completing the construction process.”

It was important the trainees had a basic understanding of the materials they were working with.

“The goal is to do expedient construction to really benefit the war fighters and to essentially reduce the logistics to be able to print with locally available materials,” said Krieger. “We are not using proprietary materials; we go into a site and we are able to print within days of us arriving.”

After learning about additive printing, the service members jumped into action. With the help of USACE, they completed the project in five days.

group of people outdoor discussion
Members of the Marine Innovation Unit, along with the Army Corps of Engineers, discuss the conducting of a controlled detonation on a new 3D-printed concrete structure at Camp Atterbury, Indiana, October 19, 2023. This follow-on engagement demonstrates an experimental form of construction which uses 3D printing using liquid concrete to manufacture deliberate, sustainable construction and recovery, and update service policies to support increasing use of local and tactical manufacturing. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jonathan L. Gonzalez)

According to Krieger, this is the first time a full-size building was created using additive construction. Additive construction is when an object is created one layer at a time. This structure, a small, rectangular concrete building with no windows and only one door, took about 18 hours to print. Despite having the capabilities to build more complex structures, it is important they keep it basic.

“When we do the blast testing, we have to have very simple geometry in order to collect reliable data,” explained Krieger. “Right now, we’re testing the baseline; it’s normal geometry with no improvements.”

With the structure completed, the blast testing commenced. The subject matter experts were there to assess the damage once the dust cleared.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Jonathan L. Gonzalez)

“The weapons-effects specialists have techniques to look at cracks to see how the structure responded to the explosion and they can assess the strength from there,” said Wineland.

The USACE team hopes to continue this joint project and eventually create software design and repositories to help make printing a simple, quick process for service members.

“We really want the uniformed personnel to be able to take this technology and build for themselves,” said Krieger.

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