The US Marines benefit from ICON’s 3D printing technology
ICON is a construction technologies company based in Austin, Texas. With the help of proprietary 3D printing robotics, software and advanced materials, ICON mainly focuses on solving problems in the construction industry, by making it more cost-effective, among other things. The company has already reached a few significant milestones: ICON became the first company in America to secure a building permit for a 3D printed home and initiated the world’s first 3D printed community project. Recently, ICON announced their latest achievement – the first successful collaboration with the US Marine Corps and the Defense Innovation Unit (DIU).
ICON partnered with the Defense Innovation Unit to help integrate 3D printing technologies into military operations. The main goal was to provide rapid construction capability to support military crisis response efforts. For this project, ICON’s 3D printing technology was used to build a vehicle hide structure for the US Marine Corps at Camp Pendleton. For this purpose, eight soldiers were trained to operate ICON’s massive Vulcan 3D printer. The aim of such training was to prepare the troops for a field demonstration, in which they would need to quickly build structures for potential army expeditions.
ICON’s technology provides tablet-based system controls that allow even novice operators to deliver high-quality 3D printing. So, after only a few hours of field training, the soldiers learned to operate the complex equipment from start to finish – ICON’s experts remained present only to supervise. At the beginning of the project, ICON and the USMC set a realistic goal: to complete the print in 40-48 hours, with some expected loss of productivity for troubleshooting while getting the Marines up to speed. However, with a few recent automation upgrades that increased the precision of the material delivery system, the print was actually completed in 36 hours with virtually zero troubleshooting time!
Michael Harper, Director of Field Operations for ICON, commented: “We were thrilled to have the opportunity to hand over the controls of our technology to the USMC. This marked the first time non-ICON employees were the primary operators of our equipment and they did an incredible job printing the Vehicle Hide Structure.”
For its construction purposes ICON typically uses its proprietary cement-based material called Lavacrete, and this project was no exception. So, with Lavacrete as the printing material, the Marines built four individual arches, which were later connected to create the final vehicle hide structure at 26’ length x 13’ width x 15’ height. For the construction project to succeed, out of the 8 Marines that were being trained on ICON’s Vulcan operations, at least 3 of them had to be actively involved in rotations at a time, since the 3D printing was a continuous process (24 hours a day).
“The unique opportunity to provide cutting-edge tools to improve the mission capabilities of the Marine Corps and watch them take the reins with the technology this past month makes us proud,” said Dmitri Julius, VP of Operations at ICON. “As a retired USMC Veteran, I am honored to work with this storied organization. Our desire is to have a continued long term partnership to put 3D printers in the hands of Marines in garrison and down range. The humanitarian applications are also endless and the ability to build useful structures for our bravest service men and women is truly tremendous.”
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