3D Printing with Macadamia Nut Shells

Researchers at the University of Sydney are studying ways of turning waste macadamia nut shells and other byproducts from the forestry and agricultural industries into 3D printed, microtimber products. Highly sustainable, these microtimber products could rival traditional timber materials both in their aesthetics and performance, showing great potential as a design material for walls, cladding, internal screens or louvres – and perhaps revolutionizing the construction industry in the process.

This three-year study, partially funded by Australia’s Forestry and Wood Products Association, involves experimenting with different material compositions using timber flours, including but not limited to macadamia shells, to produce a new marketable microtimber material.

“We want to create innovative, environmentally-resilient panels that are customised to react optimally to structural stress and weather exposure of a building,” said Dr. Sandra Löschke, director of Architecture, Design and Technology at the University of Sydney and a co-leader of the research team.“The work lies in the micro-layering and fusing of different 3D-printed timber compositions, to provide a unique material and geometric gradient suitable for large-scale building projects.”

While numerous advancements have been made recently with 3D printing concrete, the area of 3D printing timber composites is very much new territory. But the team believe this technology could quickly take over the building industry. They are anticipating that their microtimber innovations will hit the market at the end of 2016.