Branch Technology Wins First Prize in NASA’s 3‐D Printed Habitat Challenge

 

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., August 28, 2017 —Branch Technology, Inc. once again takes top prize in NASA’s Centennial Challenge

In a competition to advance the fundamental construction technologies necessary to create off‐world habitats, NASA awards first place to team Foster+Partners | Branch Technology. Out of 77 registered teams, 5 teams qualified to compete in the final level of the competition held at Caterpillar’s Demonstration and Learning Center in Edwards, Illinois on August 24th ‐ 26th.


Tasked with producing 3 beams, 3 cylinders, and a dome out of indigenous Martian regolith and recyclable materials, Branch Technology won all segments of the head‐to‐head competition. Performing better than any other team, their structure was able to take double the load of a competing concrete dome in the stress test at a maximum load of1694kg. The competition demanded that all structures be 3D printed within a 22‐hour time frame and with the required material constraints, geometric tolerances and autonomous performance. Strength was the ultimate determining factor in the win. This competition is the first of many steps in NASA’s vision to construct extra‐terrestrial habitats.

 
 

“Foster + Partners and Branch Technology share the common goal of exploring new territories in design and fabrication on Earth and beyond. For this reason, the competition served as an excellent platform for collaboration,” said project leader Melody Rees. “It was an exciting partnership among architects, engineers, and materials designers that allowed us to exceed the standards set by NASA.” Rees recognizes the support of robotics engineering company Kuka and materials design experts Techmer PM. “It really was a total team effort—everyone who worked on this project brought enthusiasm and intense determination to push the boundaries of the current technology.” 

While the NASA competition was about brute strength, Branch also demonstrated a different way of thinking about 3‐D printed construction by producing a second dome structure with their patented Cellular Fabrication (C‐Fab ™) method. In terms of strength to weight ratios, C‐FAB technology is much more efficient because it minimizes material use while maximizing strength through geometric optimization. “Extraterrestrial construction has the massive challenge of transporting and processing materials in space, so we produced a second, light‐weight dome to illustrate there is a different way of thinking about the challenge,” said Platt Boyd, CEO of Branch Technology, Inc.

“Branch Technology is taking construction into a new era. C‐Fab allows virtually unlimited design freedom using economical construction materials, faster on‐site fabrication, and reduced waste. The result is democratized design freedom along with improved resource stewardship,” continued Platt. 

 
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The team thanks the generous sponsors: NASA, Caterpillar, Bechtel, Bradley University, and Brick and Mortar Ventures. The next phase of the NASA challenge is currently under development, and will focus on fabrication of complete habitats. Branch Technology is an architectural fabricator specializing in large‐scale 3D printing. With a one of a kind 3D printing process called Cellular Fabrication (C‐Fab™), Branch creates custom pre‐fabricated walls and architectural components. Branch Technology brings unprecedented design freedom and resource stewardship to the construction industry.

 

 
 
Melody Rees