The story of innovation in Knoxville, Tenn. is centered around the cutting edge Oakridge National Laboratory. Companies seeking to play their hand in 3D printing are headed to Knoxville to leverage the support that Oakridge has already developed, including HIVE 100 winners, Branch Technology.

Branch Technology, and other groups like Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, are working with Oakridge on innovative housing solutions. This unique setting of collaboration that Knoxville is setting is attracting a broad array of innovators that promises to even revitalize manufacturing in the US.

One of the more fantastical aspects of 3D printing, besides the ability to see your digital sketch become a physical object in front of your eyes, is that it can be done almost anywhere. As long as you have a printer, a power hookup, and plenty of raw material, your office, desk, or garage can become a small factory. The technology’s promise of decentralizing production suggests that companies betting on the future of additive manufacturing can spring up anywhere with creativity, capital, and drive.

And while industrial-capability 3D printing is still in development, this cutting-edge technology has already resulted in clusters of like-minded companies and centers of innovation. And one of the most bustling areas for additive manufacturing in the country, and perhaps the world, may just be eastern Tennessee.

Knoxville, Tennessee, first settled in 1786, may seem unlikely as a center for next-generation technology for those unfamiliar with the region. But its emergence is payoff for generations of government investment in research and development. Pioneering research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory—a facility founded in the 1940s as part of the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bomb—as well as government support of advanced manufacturing, has created a magnet that has lured innovative manufacturing companies.

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