American architect turned 3D print pioneer R. Platt Boyd believes that plastic frameworks are set to revolutionise what forms are possible in construction. Boyd’s two-year-old Chattanooga, Tennessee–based startup, Branch Technology, is pioneering a next-generation variation of the technology called cellular fabrication, which mimics the structural characteristics of living cells in plants and animals. He claims that builders may soon be able to create complex structures with unorthodox shapes and contours that would be difficult or even impossible with today’s construction methods.
Branch has developed a 3D printer that consists of a 12.5ft long (3.8 m) robotic arm, mounted on a 33-foot-long (10 m) movable track, which can create large panels for construction. Crucially matrices built by Branch’s printer weigh only a few pounds, which would make it easy to transport them from a factory to a job site.
Boyd says, “You can build large panels and instead of having to crane them in place, a couple of people can pick them up and install them on site. The use of cellular fabrication would enable builders to create customized, complex interior details and facades at no additional cost. So architects would be free of the constraints that require us to make cookie-cutter boxes – you’d be taking a Frank Gehry–level of design that’s $1,000 a square foot [$10,764 per m2] to build now, and making it accessible to architects for $200 a square foot [$2,153 per m2].”