3D Printing Climbs to the Top at Chattanooga Airport
Surrounded by the mountains of the Cumberland Plateau, Chattanooga, TN, is well known for its scenic overlooks and serves as one of the most premier rock climbing locations in the world. When it came time to reinvent a kiosk at the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce envisioned an exhibit that would highlight one of the city’s most prominent tourist attractions.
“We wanted an iconic sculpture that would define the city,” said Sybil Topel, vice president, marketing communications and community engagement, Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce. “Branch was a standout choice for the job because we enjoyed a great relationship with them – after all, they started out in the INCubator that our Chattanooga Chamber manages. No one else is engaged in the future of 3D printing like Branch. They care about our community and were excited to be a part of our mission to provide an interactive visitor experience.”
The centerpiece, titled “Climbs Sculpture,” stands 16 feet tall and is made of Branch Matrix™, which is the technology behind all of Branch’s exterior cladding solutions, such as BranchClad™ and StoPanel® 3DP. It is a 3D-printed open lattice material that can be made to virtually any shape or form, allowing architects to harness its limitless design flexibility to create one-of-a-kind facades. Manufactured using Branch’s unique C-Fab® process, the material can also be painted in any color to deliver optimal design diversity. The piece is finished in a dark blue color that integrates the sculpture with the airport’s overall interior design.
“As a gateway for the city, the Chattanooga Airport welcomed nearly 400,000 inbound flights in 2021. Designing something that properly captured Chattanooga and its character was very important to us,” said Platt Boyd, founder and CEO, Branch Technology. “Branch is proud to have had a role in creating such a symbolic sculpture that we hope leaves an imprint on travelers to our community.”
Branch Technology submitted four designs – all themed around the Tennessee River and the mountains of Chattanooga – before the Chamber of Commerce selected the design that they felt best symbolized one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions and recreational activities: Rock climbing.
The 3D-printed structure holds two screens where people can connect to ChattanoogaCalling.com and explore the idea of coming to Chattanooga to fill some of the best jobs in Tennessee. ChattanoogaCalling.com is part of a larger talent attraction and retention campaign by the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce and partners. The collaborative website lists thousands of jobs as well as a cost-of-living comparison calculator and online guide to neighborhoods in the greater Chattanooga area.
The sculpture is designed to promote Chattanooga’s reputation in innovation, entrepreneurship, and technology. It serves as a connection between these attributes and the city’s storied history in manufacturing.
The sculpture, conveniently located by several terminals, points upward toward the center of a large glass dome skylight. It’s the first thing visitors see as they enter the concourse upon their arrival.
Branch’s advancements in 3D printing technology allow for unprecedented creativity for large construction-scale projects, making them the ideal fabricator for the Climbs Sculpture. 3D-printed shapes are produced directly from digital files rather than being interpreted from shop drawings. The result is extreme accuracy that is true to the original design. The process is much faster than typical fabrication methods and produces drastically less waste compared to traditional construction projects.
Completed in October 2021, Climbs Sculpture represents a collaboration between the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport, Branch Technology, Greater Chattanooga Economic Partnership, and the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.