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    Australian innovation paves the way for 3D printed hemp homes

    Geraldine Chua

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    A Perth-based housing manufacturer has developed a new carbon-negative industrial hemp product that can be turned into building panels for residential and commercial structures.

    Mirreco’s technology relies on a specialised machine that processes the entire hemp plant into separate but individually valuable items such as oils and biomass in just one hour—a process that typically takes several weeks. It hopes to create a mobile fleet of these machines that will be able to process hemp on site at farming locations.

    The hemp biomass can then be used to create building panels that have fire retardant and acoustic dampening qualities.

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     Hemp stem showing fibres. Image: Natrij

    Lauded as the “superfood” equivalent in the construction industry, hemp has been used in construction in several ways. Its woody inner core is used for hempcrete, while its outer fibrous skin is used for hemp fibre batt insulation, Hemp seed oil has also been used for wood finishes and deck stains.

    But it’s not just a great material to work with. Hemp is also a sustainable source. The hardy plant requires limited water and chemical input to grow, and can be harvested in just three months.

    “This rapid growth rate means hemp absorbs more CO2 per acre than almost any other plant or tree,” Mirreco notes.

    The plant also has the ability to sequester and store CO2, and has been used in a number of countries to extract toxins in contaminated areas such as disused mine sites.

    To showcase the benefits of hemp, Mirreco is developing an industry hemp-based eco-home prototype, which will be completed in Q4 2018. Designed by Arcforms, the display unit’s floors, walls and roof will be made using hemp biomass, and will feature solar photovoltaic window technology that converts sunlight into energy.

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    A conceptual design of a Mirreco’s micro home prototype.

    The grand masterplan for Mirreco, however, is the eventual ability to 3D print houses using its hemp biomass—an innovation that would truly revolutionise the industry.

    “Just imagine living and working in buildings that are 3D-printed and available to move into in only a matter of weeks,” the company said.

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