The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Automated Construction of Expeditionary Structures (ACES) program is a game changer for construction in remote areas. The project will supply rugged 3D concrete printers that can go anywhere and print (almost) anything.
The project started several years ago when concrete printers were very much in their infancy, but even then it was obvious that commercial products would not fit the Army’s needs.
“Our priority was to develop a capability utilizing 3D printing technology for use in an expeditionary environment, specifically suited for military purposes,” Megan Kreiger, program manager for additive construction at the Army’s Engineer Research and Development Center, told me.
“That means it has to ship in a container, it has to use local materials, it has to work in a dirty environment, and it needs to be able to take a beating while still remaining reliable.”ACES has produced multiple printers working with different industry partners. For example, ACES Lite was made in partnership with Caterpillar under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement.
It packs into a standard 20-foot shipping container and can be set-up or taken down in 45 minutes, has built-in jacks for quick leveling and can be calibrated in a matter of seconds, making it more straightforward than other devices. Overall the printer resembles a gantry crane, with a concrete pump, hose and a robotic nozzle which lays down precise layers.