From lab to market: Meet Branch Technology

Get to know the entrepreneurial researchers leading the charge in Tennessee’s science- and tech-based innovation. This week, meet Branch Technology.

“Branch is bringing the vision of 3D printed buildings to life” — Architect Magazine February 2019

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This facade is currently in production for the flagship branch of Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union (TVFCU) in Chattanooga, TN. This will be the world’s first Freeform 3D-printed building enclosure and leverages the client’s brand into the architecture of the building itself with an undulating wave that traverses the entire perimeter of the bank.

Branch Technology is an architectural fabricator specializing in construction-scale 3D printing that brings unprecedented design freedom and resource stewardship to the construction industry with a new technology called Cellular Fabrication, or C-Fab®.

C-Fab® combines industrial robotics, proprietary computational-geometry algorithms, and a novel “Freeform” extrusion capability that enables printed material to solidify in free space without support. This facilitates Branch Technology’s printed volumes production ability to use 20X less material than standard layered deposition methods without sacrificing structural integrity or volumetric print speed.

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The largest-spanning 3D printed structure in the world at the ONEC1TY development in Nashville, TN. This pavilion was printed in Chattanooga, TN at Branch’s Advanced Manufacturing and Design Center and transported to the site in Nashville where it was installed like giant legos.

Branch Technology’s Founder Platt Boyd, formerly a traditional architect, was inspired by the way nature builds with beauty, variety, and efficiency. Simultaneously frustrated with the design limitations that classic construction methods impose on architectural possibilities, he invented C-Fab® with the goal of revolutionizing the built world to more easily emulate the beauty and efficiency of natural structures. Also inspired by a vision for greater productivity and cost-effectiveness in the construction sector, their team employs principles of prefabrication and advanced manufacturing in its workflow. Branch Technology pioneered prefabrication and 3D printing cohesion in the construction arena.

One of their most significant and highly visible accomplishments to date is the world’s largest-spanning 3D printed structure in Nashville, TN. Additionally, they will soon complete two instances of the world’s first Freeform 3D printed building enclosures in Chattanooga and Huntsville.

Branch Technology received an award from LaunchTN’s SBIR/STTR Matching Fund in 2019, after winning a Phase II SBIR award from the National Science Foundation the previous year. Through a competitive awards-based program, the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program provides federal funding for small businesses exploring their technological potential and helps to accelerate the commercialization process.

Q&A

What role did receiving SBIR/STTR federal funding play in your company’s commercialization?
SBIR funding was critical to both fundamental technology/process R&D and advanced product development and certification. Branch used SBIR funds to optimize its Freeform printing technology, software stack, and materials, as well as pursue code compliance and certification of its construction products. This has enabled us to meet code compliance on every structure installed to date and build out a 40,000 sq-ft factory with a fleet of 12 operational robots.

What’s one piece of advice you’d give another company applying for SBIR/STTR funding?
Nail down your value proposition and commercialization strategy. SBIR/STTR funds, whether for DoD or non-military agencies, are designated to support “dual-use” technologies that can perform well in both the private and public sectors. This ensures that multiple revenue streams will eventually coalesce to support a technology sponsored by SBIR/STTR funds. SBIR/STTR reviewers look for a strong individual value proposition in the proposal but also focus on the commercial potential.

How did receiving an award from LaunchTN’s SBIR/STTR Matching Fund help move your company forward?
The Matching Fund from LaunchTN allowed Branch to further develop the composite product that integrates the 3D printed structure with other building materials to create a multi-functional wall assembly. This product vertical is the long-term vision of Branch’s technology — where 3D printed structures can be used to define geometries and integrate with other materials that provide necessities like insulation, moisture barriers, and architectural finishes. Eventually, this will pave the way for C-Fab® construction of full buildings.

Why is the SBIR/STTR Matching Fund important to the state of Tennessee?
SBIR/STTR funds are critical to the development of new technology startups, but these funds often are not enough to supplement a company’s operations beyond the R&D being conducted. The Matching Fund from LaunchTN enables the company to investigate critical research avenues that arise tangential to the SBIR/STTR project and also allows the company to grow its business operations in preparation for eventual technology commercialization.

Startup Snapshot

Date founded: 2014
Home city: Chattanooga
Number of employees: 32
Capital raised: ~$22M

Branch Technology is revolutionizing the construction industry and is looking for talented, driven, and humble geniuses to join us on the journey to a more productive, efficient, and beautiful built world. They believe in Wise Stewardship, Relentless Execution, Intense Collaboration, Designed Beauty, Other-Centeredness, and Humble Geniuses. If you align with these core values, connect with Branch: Website, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

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Empowering Tennessee’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and working to make TN the most startup-friendly state in the nation. Host of 36|86 Festival | launchtn.org

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