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ACES - printing custom-designed expeditionary structures on-demand and in the field

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The U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, together with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, Kennedy Space Center, and Caterpillar, Inc., have developed an additive, three dimensional (3D) printing technology capable of printing custom-designed expeditionary structures on-demand, in the field, using concrete sourced from locally available materials. 

The Automated Construction of Expeditionary Structures (ACES) project provides the capability to print custom-designed expeditionary buildings and materials with minimum personnel; providing structures that improve the safety, security, and quality of life for forward deployed troops and contractors.

The ACES program decreases construction time from five days to one day per structure, while reducing the personnel required for construction from 8 to 3. The ACES program also reduces the resources and logistics associated with material shipment that are required to sustain the construction, including personnel. 

  • ACES construction would decrease the amount of material shipped from 5 tons to less than 2.5 tons.

Structures built with ACES are also expected to have improved energy performance (from less than R-1 to greater than R-15) when compared with expedient plywood construction.

Progress

The third generation ACES-3 machine, capable of being transported on the Army’s Palletized Load System and C-130 aircraft, will be fabricated and demonstrated at the ERDC Forward Operating Base Laboratory (EFOB-L) in September 2017. ACES-3 will also be used by NASA to demonstrate a proof of concept for planetary surface infrastructure construction using regolith. ERDC is working with Caterpillar, Inc. under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to explore commercialization of the technology, with potential applications that include conventional construction and disaster relief.

The ACES printer was the first to utilize concrete made with aggregate, rather than paste or mortar. The printer can also create other types of structures such as obstacles, protective structures, vaults, culverts, beams, and other item/structures on-demand. Parts can be printed from Computer-aided Design models that can be either pre-loaded or up-linked from different locations.

Examples

  • Barracks Hut (B-Hut, 16' x 32')
  • beams and lintels
  • culverts
  • Entry Control Point with roof (6' x 6')
  • Jersey barriers

Media

On the Road Again: LTG Semonite at CERL: Army lab developing 3-D printer for buildings:


NASA’s in Space Manufacturing Initiative and Added Manufacturing Development and Quality Standards Approach for Rocket Engine Space Flight Hardware. Additive Manufacturing Defense and Aerospace 2016 Summit March 29–31, 2016. London, U. K. https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20160004218.pdf

Contact

ERDCinfo@usace.armymil, (217) 373-7259

Engineering Processes
U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center | Construction Engineering Research Laboratory


3-D printing ACES CERL ERDC USACE