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As 3D-printing technology continues to advance, one of the most sensible uses may be with the military. The new method is safer, less wasteful, and offers flexibility to service members. In fact, the U.S. Marine Corps just recently finished printing the world’s first 3D-printed concrete barracks with architectural firm SOM. Fast Company’s Jesus Diaz spoke with Captain Matt Friedell, the additive manufacturing lead at the Marine Corps Systems Command, and found they can make structures for disaster response in both the U.S. and abroad.

As Friedell puts it, if the Marines bring tents, they’ll just have those tents. If they bring wood, they’ll be sleeping in wooden barracks. Large-scale 3D printing changes everything, since it allows so much flexibility: As long as they have access to the field printer, sacks of concrete, and a computer, they can print any structure at any scale necessary.

Last month, the group worked with the I Marine Expeditionary Force to test their design using the world’s largest 3D printer at the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in Champaign, Illinois. They also also used an expeditionary printer–read, less cumbersome–to build a 500-square foot barracks in just 40 hours, working alongside Army and Navy Seabees.

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