November 23, 2020 UTK Filament Tower Receives National Composites Award

UTK Filament Tower Exhibit

A fiber-composite tower designed and fabricated by Asst. Professor Marshall Prado and students, using ingenuity, skill and the nine-axis robot in the Fab Lab was recognized with a national Award for Composites Excellence from the American Composites Manufacturers Association.

The UTK Filament Tower, a 30-foot lattice-like tower created with a novel coreless filament winding technique, received the 2020 ACE Design: Most Creative Application Award. The award competition recognizes groundbreaking achievement and innovation in design, manufacturing and product development in the composites industry. The tower received the only design award given in 2020.

The UTK Filament Tower was constructed with nearly 50 miles of glass and carbon fiber wound by the Fab Lab robot, resulting in a structure that is several times stronger than steel but much lighter. Noted by the ACE Award, this work explores computational design and robotic fabrication of lightweight fiber composite structures for architectural applications, opening the way for the use of performative materials as efficient and sustainable construction practices for the future.

In 2019, Prado and 23 students, faculty and staff worked for seven months to design and fabricate the tower, which was installed at Exhibit Columbus. Exhibit Columbus is an international biennial event in Columbus, Indiana, that features outdoor installations and experiences, and the tower was the first-ever composite structure to be featured in the exhibition.

Prado teaches design and structural technology in the School of Architecture. His research centers on robotic fabrication of fiber composite structures in architecture and the integration of computation and fabrication techniques into material systems and spatial design strategies.

Partners in the tower project included Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility and other collaborators including Format Engineers, the UT Fiber and Composite Manufacturing Facility and the UT Institute of Agriculture Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology. Industry sponsors included McLube, Owens Corning, Hutch and Kevina Schumaker, SGL Carbon and Teijin Carbon.

Prado’s research on robotic fabrication is supported by Owens Corning, Hexion, Inc., ORNL, ORNL Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, ORNL Carbon Fiber Technology Facility and Joint Institute for Advanced Materials.

The American Composites Manufacturers Association is the world’s largest composites industry trade group.

Learn more

Read about the creation of the UTK Filament Tower.

Read about the UTK Filament Tower at Exhibit Columbus.

Learn more about the School of Architecture.