If you’ve flown through the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport recently you probably gazed up at a brand-new, bright blue sculpture soaring skyward.
View the Climbs Sculpture video, here.
The 3D printed Climbs Sculpture serves as the focal point for the ChattanoogaCalling.com Center that now welcomes visitors to Chattanooga, providing instant information about living and working in our region of Tennessee.
“The Climbs Sculpture honors the spirit of ingenuity and adventure within our city,” said Christy Gillenwater, President and CEO, Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce. “We hope this installation encourages visitors to stay and thrive in Chattanooga.”
Designed to attract attention and elevate Chattanooga’s reputation as a center of innovation and entrepreneurship, the Climbs Sculpture represents an abstract expression of the Chattanooga area’s unique natural treasures and outdoor lifestyle — with an intentional focus on rock formations.
While many mid-sized cities claim an outdoor lifestyle, the greater Chattanooga area owns a unique claim to some of the best rock climbing in the world.
“Those same geological formations create spectacular views and hiking and biking trails,” said Sybil Topel, MFA, IOM, Vice President, Marketing and Communications, Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce.
“The 3D printed Climbs Sculpture embodies the creativity, innovation, engineering and architectural talents of our community. And it’s a connection between Chattanooga’s future in innovation and our history as a manufacturing powerhouse,” Topel said.
“Chattanooga offers an extraordinary number of jobs in a wide variety of fields. One might imagine ‘Climbs’ represents the work that goes into building a meaningful career. We hope people will imagine themselves moving here to start or advance their careers.”
The soaring structure cradles two screens where people can explore the idea of moving to Chattanooga to fill some of the best jobs in Tennessee. The screens connect to ChattanoogaCalling.com, a collaborative website listing thousands of jobs as well as a cost-of-living comparison calculator and online guide to neighborhoods in the greater Chattanooga area.
Climbs represents a collaboration of the Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport, Branch Technology and the Greater Chattanooga Economic Partnership. It replaces a kiosk that featured the Chattanooga: Literally Perfect video.
Contractors, architects and designers will be interested in what materials were used to make the Climbs Sculpture and how the technology translates to commercial building construction.
Branch Technology developed a method called Cellular Fabrication (C-Fab) for 3D printing polymer lattice structures that can then be sprayed with insulation and concrete to create extremely lightweight, yet structurally impressive prefab components. The process relies on industrial robotic arms outfitted with polymer extruders and attached to massive rails, resulting in one of the largest freeform 3D printing systems ever created. Elements 3D printed with C-Fab use 20 times less material than traditional layered printing, while still enabling remarkable strength-to-weight ratios.
The Climbs Sculpture was created using Branch Technology’s C-Fab process to freeform 3D-print the required components as three mega prints. The sculpture is 300 ft2 and 90 ft3. Inspired by “Chattanooga blue,” the sculpture is painted Dark Blue Effect.
Branch Technology also designed the “Nature Clouds” hanging garden displayed at the Chicago Field Museum of Natural History and the One City band shell in Nashville, Tennessee. Most recently, the company created the world’s first 3D-printed building facade for a new Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union branch in Chattanooga.
Branch Technology founders say they look forward to continuing to build its international reputation in the construction and architecture fields, with a primary focus on utilizing design freedom by providing unique lightweight building facade panels.
Branch Technology design team members include Melody Rees, LEED, AIA Associate, Director of Design, and Jason Vereschak, Senior Design Associate. Branch Technology team members charged with the installation were Carlos Newton, Mark Vernon and robot operators Elijah Morgan, Jonathan Abbott, Jonathan Holman, Cole Montalvo and Christopher Cunningham. Branch Technology was founded by Platt Boyd, AIA, CEO. Chattanooga Chamber team members working on the project include Topel; Charles Wood, Vice President, Economic Development; Jeremy Henderson, Senior Director, Creative Services; and Eric Lisica, Interactive Content Manager.
“I remember sitting in a conference room at work in February of 2019 – the month before we all moved our offices to our homes. When we landed on the idea of asking Branch Technology to participate, at first we thought only of the state-of-the-art robot 3D printed booths they had designed for their own trade shows. Then we did what Chattanoogans do. We dreamed bigger,” Topel said.
“While creating sculptures is not Branch Technology’s core focus, they said yes. We were thrilled to learn that a 3D printed sculpture that tall was possible and even more pleased when the Chattanooga Airport also said yes to the final design.”
Initially Branch Technology developed more than four design concepts based on our river and mountains. These designs were then presented to a panel of leaders and decision makers including Terry Hart, President, CEO, Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport, and Blake Poole, Vice President, Air Service and Economic Development, Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport.
“We want to thank Blake Poole and Terry Hart for sharing this vision,” Topel said. “They gave us the latitude to create a unique installation and we’re grateful they saw the value in greeting visitors with an innovative structure and information center that sets Chattanooga apart from competitors.”
Branch Technology produced the Climbs Sculpture components over the summer. Installation took one day, with the bench following soon after. Marcherie Savage, Economic Development Marketing Coordinator with the Chattanooga Chamber, recorded a time-lapse video on installation day and Lisica and Savage produced a final video.
Chattanooga Chamber team members involved with the Climbs Sculpture installation also include Dustin Harris, Director Information Technology, Finance and Administration; and Lindsay Hiatt, Project Manager, Economic Development.
Branch Technology is a Chattanooga, Tennessee-headquartered firm and a mature startup whose founders chose Chattanooga for its fastest-on-the-planet internet infrastructure, powered by EPB. Branch Technology’s connection to the Chattanooga Chamber began in the INCubator, which the Chamber manages. The INCubator is located on Northshore inside the Hamilton County Business Development Center and is the third largest incubator in the United States.
Branch Technology benefited in early growth stages from ‘colliding’ with other 3D manufacturers in the Hamilton County Development Center. Bill Lupia, INCubator Director of Small Business and Entrepreneurship, champions Branch Technology’s growth and success. Lupia encourages companies with at least one year of growth, and a three-year business plan, to contact him here for more information on working at the INC.
The Chattanooga Airport offers eight non-stop flights and connections to countless destinations throughout the United States via Allegiant, American Airlines, Delta and United Airlines. It also offers award-winning services for general aviation needs at Wilson Air Center — a 9,000 square-foot corporate flight center adjacent to 60,000 square feet of hangar space.
Creative teams from Development Counsellors International (DCI) and the Chattanooga Chamber developed the ChattanoogaCalling.com website and launched it in November 2020. On the heels of that launch, the Chattanooga Chamber and community partners launched StartingBlockChattanooga.com. This innovative resource is powered by SourceLink and made possible through Coronavirus Aid Relief Economic Security funding. The Chambliss Startup Group, the Tennessee Valley Authority and Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union are sustaining sponsors of this website, with a mission of offering free or low-cost business resources to entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Image: Sybil Topel