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A fiber-composite tower designed and fabricated by Assistant Professor Marshall Prado and his students in the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s School of Architecture was recognized with a national award for composites excellence from the American Composites Manufacturers Association, the world’s largest composites-industry trade group.

Prado teaches design and structural technology, and 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.

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 competition recognizes groundbreaking achievement and innovation in design, manufacturing, and product development in the composites industry.

The tower was constructed using a nine-axis robot in UT’s maker space, the Fab Lab. The robot wound nearly 50 miles of glass and carbon fiber, resulting in a structure that is several times stronger than steel but much lighter. As noted in the award citation, the 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.

The UTK Filament Tower in Columbus, Indiana

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

Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility was a partner in the project. Other collaborators included 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.


Amanda Johnson (865-974-6401,