Branch Technology has erected what it claims is the world’s largest 3-D printed structure (20 feet tall and stretches 42 feet wide) for Nashville, Tenn.’s OneC1TY neighborhood. While some may dispute the claim, as the panels of the structure were then shipped and assembled on-site as opposed to printed in one solid piece, the structure still managed to turn heads at the 2018 International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures.
The firm is known for its Cellular Fabrication (also known as C-Fab) process, the 3-D printer solidifies a mixture of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic and carbon fiber in an open space, as opposed to typical 3-D printers, where thermoplastics are heated, cooled, and then layered to create a structure. The printer’s head is attached to a 12.5-foot robotic arm, which moves on a 33-foot rail.
The OneC1TY pavilion was 3-D printed with the C-Fab system in 40 different panels over the course of 10 weeks before being coated in a UV-protective paint. Branch Technology worked with Thornton Tomasetti’s CORE Studio to design a stable structure without steel reinforcement. In total, the pavilion weighs about 3,200 pounds. The structure can withstand an inch of ice buildup, 12 inches of snow and 90 mph of wind load.
To those who follow composite innovation in 3-D printing, the structure may look familiar, as Branch Technology, along with SHoP Architects, Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Techmer ES, created two similar installations for at the Design Miami 2016 conference known as Flotsam and Jetsam. They were printed using two different types of composites. The pavilions’ canopies utilized custom carbon fiber-reinforced acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) composite materials, which were developed by Techmer ES. The printing itself was done by Branch Technology using C-Fab.