UTK Filament Tower Still Winning Awards, Showcasing New Technologies

Source: IACMI | Article | December 15, 2020

When engineers and architects get together, there’s no limit to what kind of structures they can design.

In fact, a group of students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville brought their creative know-how together to build the first coreless wound filament tower in North America, and one of the tallest examples of coreless filament winding ever constructed.

The 30-foot lattice tower, which featured 3D-printed composite bases and 27 composite components, was awarded the Most Creative Application Award in Design at the American Composites Manufacturers Association Awards earlier this year and was shown at Exhibit Columbus in Columbus, Ind., at its annual fall symposium.

A team of 23 students, faculty and staff were involved with the project under the guidance of Professor Marshall Prado, assistant professor of design and structural technology at UTK.

In a recent Composites Manufacturing Magazine story, Prado said he believes that adaptive, moldless technology is key to expanding the use of composites in architecture. “It’s very difficult to build a mold on an architectural scale, for instance the size of a building,” he says. “[Molds] are very suitable for engineering applications, like aerospace or automotive, where they make the same part over and over again. But in our case, buildings are rarely made more than once.”

Alex Stiles, who is currently working on a PhD in Energy Science and Engineering at UTK’s Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education, says the project was very gratifying.

“For me, the most rewarding part of the project was getting to work alongside architecture students and gain a fresh perspective on composite materials,” Stiles explains. He has participated on many technical research projects, including leading workforce initiatives through IACMI. “I’ve been working with composites for years as an engineering student – and even with a startup company – but most of my experience has used traditional manufacturing methods to achieve engineering goals such as reduced weight and structural performance. With this project, the weight was still a driving factor, but the aesthetic of the material was key as well.”

Stiles says not only did the tower have to be lightweight, it also had to give the impression of lightness, and that part of that strategy was to accent the openness of the structure with internal LED lighting that made the fiberglass in the tower glow at night.

“Standing there under the glowing tower and looking up through it into the night sky was an unforgettable experience,” Stiles recalls, “unlike any of the composites projects I’ve worked on in the past.”

Project Team: Professor Marshall Prado

Development and Fabrication: Shane Principe, Sarah Wheeler, Courtney St. John, Alex Stiles, Nadin Jabri, Geng Liu, Pete Paueksakon, Tyler Sanford, Michaela Stanfill, Michael Mckever, Michael Swartz, Hollywood Conrad, Teig Dryden, Howard Fugitt, Kristia Bravo, Bridget Ash, Kevin Saslawsky, Michael Vineyard, Zane Smith, Josh Mangers, Patrick Dobronski, Joe Gauspohl and with the support of Craig Gillam and the UTK Fablab

Collaborators: Oak Ridge National Laboratory – Manufacturing Demonstration Facility, Format Engineers Ltd, Fiber and Composite Manufacturing Facility, Entomology and Plant Pathology

Sponsors: University of Tennessee College of Architecture and Design, Teijin Carbon, Owens Corning, Techmer PM, McLube, SGL Carbon, Hutch and Kevina Schumaker

All photos credited to: © UTK College of Architecture and Design