If all goes according to plan, by the close of 2018 Australians will be able to 3D-print large-scale gradient timber panels using the discarded shells of Macadamia nuts.

A special team of researchers, led by University of Sydney architecture and engineering experts, will combine minds and expertise over the next three years in a bid to break new ground in the use of agricultural waste in 3D printing for construction.

Dr Sandra Löschke, Director of Architecture, Design and Technology at the University of Sydney and co-leader of the research team, says that the work will focus on the micro-layering and fusing of different 3D-printed timber compositions, which will then provide a unique material and geometric gradient suitable for large-scale building projects.

“We want to create innovative, environmentally-resilient panels that are customised to react optimally to structural stress and weather exposure of a building,” she says.

“We aim to not only provide sustainable but aesthetic alternatives to standard timber products.”

Researchers will experiment and test different material compositions using timber flours, including hardwood, softwood and macadamia shells.

The team says they will produce prototypes for a sustainable and highly marketable Microtimber, which may be adapted for a wide range of building features such as walls, cladding, internal screens or louvres.

As part of the research, the team also plans to design and fabricate a demonstration prototype that will showcase the benefits and potential of the new Microtimber.