A novel 3D printing process developed by Branch Technology, Chattanooga, Tenn., was used in two recently completed unique projects. The firm, an architectural fabricator with a specialty in large-scale 3D printing, used compounds developed by Techmer PM for both installations—one an outdoor structure of record-breaking proportions in Nashville, Tenn., and the other an indoor hanging garden at Chicago’s Field Museum.
At the technology’s core, as described by Branch, is the Cellular Fabrication (C-FAB) production process, which combines industrial robotics, sophisticated algorithms, and carbon composite materials to freeform print-open cell structures. It is said to be distinctive in that it prints volumes as cellular matrices. The open-cell nature allows for efficient builds and endless dimensional form. For architectural applications, the matrix acts as a framework or scaffold to accept traditional building materials.
In these two latest projects, however, Branch applied the other version of its product—which uses only an exposed matrix. According to Branch, the matrix can be used in this manner to create structures that “are as beautiful as they are revolutionary.”
C-FAB uses a patented extrusion head attached to a Kuka Robotics arm that travels along a horizontal track creating a build volume of 3000 ft3. Specially developed algorithms allow it to translate virtually any three-dimensional design into physical form. This process creates full-scale building elements and is capable of generating components that are 8-ft-wide-by-12-ft-high-by-30-ft long. Each component can be attached to the next, allowing even larger builds and continuous forms of unprecedented scale. Here’s some more information about the two installations.
● ‘One-City’ outdoor band shell: The Nashville installation leverages the C-FAB methods of 3D printing wherein material can be solidified in mid-air to create open-matrix structures capable of taking on virtually any form. The project involved using these techniques to create a band shell that measured 42 feet in diameter and more than 19 feet tall, making it the largest free-form, 3D printed structure in North America. One City also boasts Branch’s longest unsupported span of 42 feet, creating strength through optimized geometry, without the need for structural steel.
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