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Chattanooga’s 3D Printing Startups Are Taking Local Manufacturing into the Future

Chattanooga, Tennessee, is rapidly growing into a top hub for 3D printing, as more and more additive manufacturers are flocking to the city to take advantage of the city’s entrepreneurial culture and resources, 3D printing talent and metro-wide gigabit service.

Chattanooga has a rich history of manufacturing, and still does, with companies such as Volkswagen located in the region. The city is also a top hub for startups, and was also the first mid-sized city to establish an innovation district. In addition, Chattanooga is home to the fastest internet in the Western Hemisphere – a huge benefit for 3D printers, which require large files and fast upload speeds to print, as well as resources for entrepreneurs, including the third largest business accelerator in the country, the INCubator.

This ‘perfect storm’ of resources has led to a surge in 3D printing startups in the city, including companies such as:

  • Collider: Collider, which was recently named runner up in the Disrupt NY 2017 Startup Battlefield, is revolutionizing 3D printing with technology that uses traditional manufacturing materials to make production quality parts. Collider’s proprietary process, “Programmable Tooling,” can produce metal objects on demand, unlike traditional 3D printers. Collider’s machine, Orchid, can work with rubber, silicone and plastic. Orchid reduces tooling lead-time and costs to deliver production quality parts in traditional manufacturing materials.

  • Branch Technology: Branch Technology, the first company in the world to successfully 3D print interior walls to scale, uses the world’s largest freeform 3D printer to print cellular matrixes out of ABS plastic, and then reinforces those structures with carbon fiber. Founder Platt Boyd moved Branch to Chattanooga in 2015 to participate in GIGTANK, a boutique accelerator for startups that is the only startup accelerator wired to a metro-wide gigabit network, and ultimately decided to relocate his company permanently to take advantage of the city’s many resources. Branch is currently in the process of constructing a 3D printed house in Chattanooga, “Curve Appeal,” which was designed by Chicago-based firm WATG Urban Architecture Studio. Branch’s futuristic technology even goes beyond Earth—the company was recently recognized by NASA for its participation in NASA’s 3D Habitat Centennial Challenge.

  • 3D Ops: 3D Ops uses CT scans and MRIs to build 3D printed models of body parts, so that surgeons can better plan medical procedures. The 3D printed models reduce time in surgery by providing surgeons with a more accurate and advanced approach to simulated surgery, decreasing the overall amount of time spent in the operating room. They also help mitigate risk for hospitals while also providing educators and medical instructors with realistic anatomical models for surgical training purposes.

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