Jan 23, 2018 | By Tess

Architectural design firm WATG Chicago is moving ahead with its freeform 3D printed house project in partnership with Branch Technology. The companies recently confirmed that R&D and wall section testing for the 3D printed construction project are in progress and they are preparing to break ground on the house this year.

Readers will undoubtedly remember the Freeform Home Design Challenge which was launched in 2016 by Branch Technology, a 3D printing construction startup based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. At the time, the company invited architecture studios and professional designers to conceive of innovative home designs that could be built using its freeform 3D printing technology.

WATG Chicago won the competition with its design for “Curve Appeal,” a home inspired by the experimental Case Study Houses of the mid-20th century. The Curve Appeal home, notable for its curved, organic structure and affinity for natural light, is aimed at reimagining the family home as closer to nature.

It is not only the home’s appearance that is cutting-edge, however, as it was designed to be constructed using state-of-the-art additive manufacturing technology and materials. Branch Technology’s Freeform 3D printing process is opening up the possibilities of what architectural forms can be created, making it possible to construct curved walls and structures.

As WATG writes on its website, “Using Branch Technology’s Freeform printing process, complex design forms are no longer difficult or expensive to build. Within the home, the complex shell geometry is not only aesthetically attractive but structurally functional. The arching form provides structural rigidity to the residence, using various spring points throughout the floor plan, allowing the structure to carry roof loads and provide large open-plan living spaces, shaping structures in new ways without any restrictions.”

Ultimately, the plan is to build WATG’s experimental Curve Appeal home along the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, where it will be nestled in a wooded but bright area.

Before breaking ground on the official construction, however, WATG and Branch Technology must complete several testing phases. Fortunately, these are moving ahead thanks to a number of collaborations.

For instance, structural engineering company Thornton Tomasetti has been brought onto the project to help with the testing of 3D printed beams and partial wall sections. The tests are designed to determine the load bearing capabilities of the 3D printed beams.

“In generic printed beam tests, a three-foot long beam could carry a load of approximately 3,600 pounds, while only weighing five pounds,” explains WATG. “The freeform printed matrix is essentially a small space frame, making it highly efficient. The next stage will be to test the maximum load bearing qualities of each individual printed element of the structure.”

WATG and Branch Technology have also enlisted the help of United States Gypsum for the purpose of developing a range of gypsum-based materials to be used for fire protection, structural reinforcements, and as a substrate for finished wall materials.

Finally, the companies have also teamed up with Interface, a mechanical, electrical, and plumbing design firm to create a passive mechanical system for the Curve Appeal house. This, they explain, will enable the house to operate with net zero-energy, making it almost fully sustainable.

As these R&D and testing phases move along, WATG is working closely with the City of Chattanooga to keep the Curve Appeal project on schedule. If all goes well, it says it plans to break ground on the 3D printed house later this year.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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