​Australian researchers investigate 3D printed macadamia shells for construction

Multi-disciplinary research will go ahead on creating a sustainable, 3D printed “Microtimber” out of forestry and agricultural waste, including macadamia nut shells.

A statement from the University of Sydney says that a team of academics in engineering and architecture had received funding, part of this from the Forestry and Wood Products Association, on the three-year project.

Co-leader Dr Sandra Loschke said the panels created would ideally be environmentally resilient, react optimally to structural stress, and be sustainable as well as an aesthetic alternative to current materials.

"The aim is to establish scientifically-informed design principles for materially-graded elements, which will help industry meet cutting-edge demands in construction in the future, she said.”

CIO reports that the work will experiment with different compositions of agricultural waste, including macadamia shells and hard- and soft- woods, for marketable Microtimber prototypes.

The research will build on previous research by Professor Andy Dong, Warren Centre chair for engineering innovation at University of Sydney.

“Architectural and structural design aspirations are driving innovations in new value-added timber products, including the conversion of so-called waste material into a bespoke product,” the North Queensland Register quotes him as saying.

Macadamia waste is currently used in biomass cogeneration in Gympie, Queensland, claimed to be the world’s “first and only” plant using the nuts’ shells to create electricity.

Image: Matlab studio run by Dr Sandra Löschke.