Editor’s note: This is one in a series of posts about companies LaunchTN has supported through the SBIR/STTR Matching Fund.
Construction tech company Branch Technology moved to Tennessee in 2015, finding a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem in Chattanooga.
The company solves construction and manufacturing problems using a novel process called Cellular Fabrication (C-Fab®) that combines large-scale 3D printing, industrial robotics, and composite materials.
For example, Branch Technology recently received SBIR funding to develop a 3D printed, highly insulating, building energy retrofit system for exterior walls through a contract with the U.S. Air Force. Launch Tennessee matched a portion of that funding as part of its SBIR/STTR Matching Fund.
Although the SBIR-funded work is for existing buildings, much of Branch’s work is done creating new structures, including some of the world’s largest 3D printed art and sculpture installations.
Cellular Fabrication has been used to manufacture everything from the custom exterior of a Chattanooga bank to a moonscape façade for the Space & Rocket Center to shelters for members of the homeless population.
SBIR funding to support the Air Force
Branch recently received $1.13 million in funding to develop an energy retrofit system for exterior walls of older buildings for the U.S. Air Force. Once developed, this product will be used to improve the energy performance and sustainability of older buildings beyond the military.
The project will be addressing the simultaneous need for better energy efficiency, as well as operational and maintenance issues that many old buildings face, Program Development Manager for Branch David Goodloe said.
“The idea is to use digital 3D scanning technology as a source file for our additive manufacturing process that can produce large-scale custom-geometry panels with our unique assembly of composite materials,” he said. “You can think of the building as a hand, and we are 3D printing a glove to fit exactly around its unique geometric complexities and real-world features.”
Temporary housing shelters
Branch is using its expertise in developing 3D printed wall systems to develop temporary shelters for people who are experiencing homelessness.
The company did two prototypes with the city of Chattanooga earlier this year.
Residents recently moved into the shelters, which are being operated in partnership with a Chattanooga nonprofit.
Branch Technology donated time for design and project management, and if the pilot program is successful, the city of Chattanooga will evaluate the possibility of expanding the development.
Read more about that.
After winning a pitch competition in Chattanooga, founder Platt Boyd moved the company to Chattanooga in 2015.
The company has found it surprisingly easy to recruit from all over the country, Goodloe said.
The team has recruited from the West Coast to the Northeast and many places in between, with the majority of employees coming from inside Tennessee, he said.
“There is also an incredible support network for startups and blossoming technology companies in Tennessee that has helped keep us here,” he said.” LaunchTN is the nexus of that support network and we’re so glad to be part of the LaunchTN portfolio and network.”