Jun 6, 2016 | By Alec
Remember the Freeform Home Design Challenge? At the beginning of the year, the Chattanooga, Tennessee based startup Branch Technology challenged everyone, from architectural firms to individuals, to design a single 3D printable family home. It was a fantastic initiative which showcased the incredible making power of their Cellular Fabrication (C-Fab) 3D printing technique, which creates freeform structures that can be perfectly combined with other construction materials. In April, WATG Chicago’s Curve Appeal was picked as the winner, and Branch Technology has just revealed that construction will begin in 2017.
WATG Chicago itself is one of the world’s leading integrated design firms, and has received numerous accolades for previous hotel designs. Their work can be found in 160 countries all over the world, and the company was ranked as 2nd in the world among hotel architectural firms. Though the big-name winner of this Branch competition was known for some time, Branch Technology still had to receive some certifications for its breakthrough making technology, as well as pass a few safety standard tests. Over the past few weeks, the company has also been looking for supply partners to make the innovative 3D printed house a reality.
These obstacles doubtlessly had something to do with the remarkable C-Fab 3D printing technology, which is different from any other 3D printing construction method we’ve written about in the past. Essentially, the Cellular Fabrication technique uses a customized industrial robotic arm (the Kuka KR 90), which extrudes a carbon fiber reinforced ABS plastic material into complex, large-scale structures up to 8,772 cubic feet in size.
What sets these structures apart from other concrete additive manufacturing processes, is that they only actually make up the inner framework of the building structure. This completely sets their technology apart from slow, layer-by-layer 3D printing, the company argues. “[Our] algorithm creates both the geometry and robotic motion to construct complex geometries in open space, without the use of support materials or highly controlled build environments,” they said. Once 3D printed, that framework can be sprayed with traditional low-cost building materials like foam insulation and concrete to make a strong, hybrid structure.
While it sounds great on paper and looked fantastic in initial projects, the technology’s real test thus won’t begin for a couple of months. And the Curve Appeal design is certainly challenging enough. Of course, some of these challenging aspects were packed into the competition’s requirements. Branch Technology asked for entries that showcased a 600-800-square-foot single-family home that would “rethink traditional architectural aesthetics, ergonomics, construction, building systems, and structure from the ground up.”
Curve Appeal does all that, packaged in a fantastic futuristic and light design. Envisioned as a bubble-like structure with undulating slopes and a space-age style, it fuses nature with practical living. All the making power of efficient building technologies should create a home that sustainably serves both the occupants and the surrounding environment. And that is, says Branch Technology founder Platt Boyd, what convinced them to go for WATG’s design. “Curve Appeal is a very thoughtful approach to the design of our first house,” he said. “It responds well to the site conditions, magnifies the possibilities of cellular fabrication and pushes the envelope of what is possible while still utilizing more economical methods for conventional building systems integration.”
Specifically, WATG’s freeform house design consists of a marriage of two parts: an interior core and an exterior skin. But all walls are distinctly transparent, creating very light interior that still completely protects the occupants from the elements. The lightness is only further enhanced by a very open floor plan, its designers say. The exterior skin itself consists of rolling archways that should create an organic appearance that symbolically connects the home and its occupants with the outside world.
This remarkable house will be built at Branch Technology’s lab in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where it will serve as a test case for the company remarkable 3D printing technology. The house’s planning phase is expected to start soon, with the first 3D printed components expected to be realized in 2017.
Posted in 3D Printing Application
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