Attempting to infuse new engineering technology, the Army will be deploying 3D-printed accommodations at forward locations and in higher reaches and deserts that can withstand a tank fire.

The Military Engineering Services (MES), together with start-ups, including those from IIT-Gandhinagar and IIT-Madras have come up with 3D printed structures of various sizes and capabilities, with the smallest being able to accommodate two personnels. Successful trials have also taken place in Western sector to test its strength against a T-90 fire from 100 meters, said sources in the defence establishment.

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The MES hopes to induct the 3D permanent shelters, such as bunkers and houses, from next summer in shifts near forward locations along the LAC and IB, from Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh to the desert regions. “The MES in collaboration with IIT-Gandhinagar and IIT-Chennai and other start-ups have tried different combinations of 3D technology structures, which is at nascent stage of development globally. Initially, the MES started with the idea of having a structure for two personnels, which would weight 80 kg, but it was brought down to 40 kg for better mobility to go up higher reaches,” said a top source. A 3D house can be constructed as one block or pre-fabricated parts can be assembled to complete the structure.

The latest accommodation structures, with modern living facilities, are not only being used for housing jawans and bunkers, but also for constructing Air Trafic Control towers as well since the technology is green, clean and renewable and enables faster construction which, in the long run, would work out cheaper, said sources.

In March, Engineer-in-Chief Lt Gen Harpal Singh inaugurated the first-ever 3D printed houses at South Western Air Command at Gandhinagar, replacing the conventional way of making brick and cement houses. A triple-storied building is also being attempted at by the MES, which has annual budget of ₹30,000 crore.

The Army has also pushed habitat infrastructure along Eastern Ladakh post Galwan stand off in May of 2020, offering permanent structures to personnel that have climate control for ease of their living. For instance, the temperature can remain around 20 degrees inside the houses irrespective of minus 20 freezing cold outside.

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Defence establishment sources stated that there has been remarkable improvement in infrastructure pre and post stand off with Chinese PLA. The habitat and technical storage can now have assets for 22,000 troops while before 2020 the structures were not so troop friendly and even the capacity was for merely 10,000 soldiers, a defence establishment official pointed out.

Focus has now shifted to undertake construction of permanent defences and infrastructure to improve preparedness in extant working season apart from completion of ongoing projects, said defence sources.