With 3D printing technology becoming capable of printing larger and larger objects, it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine a 3D printed skyscraper in the future. We’ve been hearing more and more about the use of 3D printing in architecture, although most of it has been on a small scale thus far.
Branch Technology has bigger things in mind. Earlier this year, they became the first company to successfully construct 3D printed walls, using the world’s largest freeform 3D printer. In July, we wrote about their design competition that will culminate in a 3D printed house. If anyone decides to take a crack at that 3D printed skyscraper, it may very well be them.
For the moment, they’ll settle for the tallest 3D printed object in America. As part of the Museum of Design Atlanta (MODA)’s exhibit “Designers, Makers,Users: 3D Printing the Future,” which we covered recently, Branch has unveiled an 18-foot-tall sculpture. The result of a collaboration between Branch and architect Keith Kaseman, the sculpture vaguely resembles a massive pair of legs, as though the lower half of a giant were towering over the rest of the pieces in the exhibit.
Kaseman, of the architectural firm KBAS, is best known for designing the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial in Washington, D.C. MODA challenged him, along with Branch, to create a structure that would demonstrate the potential of 3D printing in architectural applications. In a little over a month’s time, the sculpture, known as TN-01, was completed. TN-01 was printed in several segments, and then assembled on site at MODA. With a volume of about 54 cubic feet, the structure is more than impressive, and certainly builds confidence in the company’s ability to eventually 3D print an entire building.
“The work represents a pilot project for Branch’s freeform 3D printing process,” said Branch Technology’s Shawn Thorne. “The design challenged and expanded upon Branch’s printing capabilities while highlighting how technology can enable new possibilities for designers.”
Chattanooga-based Branch Technology was founded in 2014 by an architect named Platt Boyd, who was inspired by the efficiency and strength of naturally occurring structures. This ultimately led to the company’s motto “Build Like Nature,” and to its patented Cellular Fabrication technology.
“We create the complexity of a cellular construct into which economical construction materials are applied to provide the function and strength of a wall assembly,” the company explains. “Composite structures are created using the same methodology with which nature builds. Like bones in our body or trees in the forest, optimized geometries are made strong and functional by the material filling the matrix. The interior and exterior skins can then be finished in any fashion.”
The company is driven by a “less is more” philosophy. The extremely lightweight material that makes up their 3D printed walls is capable of supporting roughly one thousand times its weight, and is far less expensive than traditional architectural support structures. By cutting back on the amount of material needed to build massive structures, Branch’s vision holds a lot of promise for a much more economical and environmentally-friendly approach to architecture. And, considering how quickly and efficiently TN-01 was built, that skyscraper may not be too far in the future after all.