The Defense Department is providing a big boost to a technology startup building houses using 3D printing.
Working with the Austin-based tech company ICON, the DOD is planning to build three 5,700 square foot barracks at a base in Texas, according to a DOD News report. The constructions will each be the largest 3D printed buildings in North America.
ICON was lauded for its model home in Austin, which went up in eight days, and the company has attracted hundreds of millions of dollars in investments to build out its business.
This project with the Army is being led by the Department of Defense's Defense Innovation Unit, which is increasingly working with technology companies as an early customer to provide some revenue as these businesses find their footing and accelerate their growth.
The massive barracks aim to be completed in a 10 month timeframe -- and will use less materials, require less labor and potentially have a lower carbon footprint than traditional building methods.
"Constructing facilities using this cutting-edge technology saves labor costs, reduces planning time, and increases the speed of construction of future facilities," Gabram said. "We are looking at other ways to use this innovative technique for rapid construction of other types of facilities beyond barracks." said Army Lt. Gen. Doug Gabram, commander of U.S. Army Installation Management Command.
The implementation, a first for the Department of Defense, also shows how existing standards and permitting regulations can hold back progress.
At the DOD, requirements for construction made no mention of 3D printing technologies, so companies that used the method in construction couldn't bid on projects.
The project with the Army is ICON's second DOD contract. It had previously built some structures for the Marine Corps in California through another Defense Innovation Unit collaboration.
"We are proud to collaborate with the U.S. Army and continue our partnership with DIU to see diverse use cases for ICON's technology across the DOD and to deliver resilient, comfortable 3D-printed barracks for soldiers at Fort Bliss," said Brendan O'Donoghue, vice president of public sector at ICON.
ICON's proprietary construction material has a compressive strength of 2,000 to 3,5000 pounds per square inch and can withstand natural disasters of all types, according to the company.