R&D support for sustainable timbers

Bosch Manufacturing Solutions will partner with 3RT in a contract for the production automation of manufactured hardwood.

Based in Melbourne and Adelaide, 3RT has developed a world-first technology in collaboration with Flinders University, that converts wood waste into timber that looks and performs like 100-year-old tropical hardwood, called Designer Hardwood.

A leader in the design and development of special purpose machinery, Bosch Manufacturing Solutions will deliver fully automated production cells to enable production of this sustainable hardwood product around the world. The cooperation provides great opportunities to leverage Bosch know-how in manufacturing, sensor technology, and software around the Internet of Things (IoT) for the wood manufacturing industry.

3RTs commercial products have only been sold in Australia so far and include indoor furnishings such as flooring, stairs, doors and panelling.

The final product iscomparable to the highest quality hardwood but is sustainable as it was made from waste timber residues that would otherwise be woodchipped. The licensing units would be ideally suited to Laminated Veneer Lumber (LVL) and plywood producers that use plantation resources and generate a lot of wood waste suitable for use in the units.

“We are producing the maximum that we can make at the moment and that’s why we need this capability with Bosch, who has the capacity to scale very fast and wherever we want in the world,” says Peter Torreele, 3RT general manager.

“We wanted to really develop our route to market and really understand the dynamics, the consumer insights and then we would have a model we could present to our partners overseas.

“Part of our assistance to them is not only saying these are the kinds of products we can make for you but these are the ways we suggest you could build your market because we have done it already in Australia.”

Flinders University Institute of Nanoscale Science and Development director Professor David Lewis, says the sustainability of their Designer Hardwood product and a resurgence in the popularity of wooden products were attractive selling points.

“It really is an exciting development and the commitment from Bosch has been wonderful and is appreciated by the company and the university because it is a pathway to expansion,” Professor Lewis says.

“Actually seeing real world results of the research we are doing is very satisfying for us as individuals but also for the university because we are having an impact in the world.”

Mr Peter Tyroller, member of the board of management of the Bosch Group responsible for Asia Pacific, says: “This is a great example of Australian ingenuity and innovation. 3RT is addressing the significant environmental and supply challenges relating to old growth hardwood, applying Bosch technology and knowhow.

With a potential project market size of AUD$1.2 billion globally, Bosch Manufacturing Solutions was selected for its unique Industry 4.0, automation and manufacturing know-how to support the entire value stream of connected manufacturing. The partnership ensures the delivery of multiple production cells to satisfy increasing demand across the globe.

The processing pilot plant based at the new Innovation Center at Adelaide Airport. Photo: 3RT

3RT’s Innovation Center in Adelaide develop and manufacture custom Designer Hardwood products, transforming plantation waste into a sustainable, low impact substitute for tropical hardwood. It received international recognition in the 2019 Good Design Awards competition by winning a gold medal for its concept of “Bespoke Wood”, which brings the concept of mass customisation into the hardwood industry.

Winner of the Victorian Manufacturing Hall of Fame Awards for Leader in Industry 4.0, Bosch Manufacturing Solutions is enabling companies to realise the the optimum way to meet customer needs.

The production cells Bosch will design and build for 3RT will be connected to other machines around Australia and the world. Equipped with leading edge Industry 4.0 capability, the machines will collect data for the optimisation of processes and can be managed remotely.

The Bosch Manufacturing Solutions business recently announced construction of a new AUD$17 million facility to support the expansion of its factory automation business in Australia. Bosch will be a crucial partner in 3RT’s innovative and scalable wood producing business.

The company has manufacturing activities in more than 250 plants worldwide, where digital industrial technology is leading to innovation and a range of industrial IoT solutions.

Read more in The Lead South Australia – Bosch deal fast tracks ‘smartwood’ technology

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College of Science and Engineering

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