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3RT: Sustainable hardwood innovation

Natural hardwoods are in great demand for beautiful architectural interiors and high-end furniture.

Traditionally, hardwoods are sourced from mature native forests. However, these old-growth forests are being consumed faster than they be renewed. This has led to concerns around the sustainability of the native hardwood industry. With businesses and politicians coming under increasing pressure to protect forests, alternatives to native hardwood need to be found.

3RT was established in 2014 in conjunction with Flinders University. Two of its founders, Prof. David Lewis and A/Prof. Jonathan Campbell, developed a patented laminating process that turns forest and plantation residue into a novel engineered wood product with the look, feel and properties of 100-year-old native hardwoods. This adds value to an under-utilised resource. The process uses a carefully developed combination of heat, water, pressure and a water-based nano-glue in a specially designed, automated workflow to produce a wide range of Designer Hardwood™. The Microscopy Australia facility at Flinders University helped the team in their process development, visualising the structures within the engineered wood.

Micrograph of the cell structure of Araucaria cunninghamii in 3RT Designer Hardwood™

“3RT is focused on continuous improvement both in the fields of new material properties and methods of production to help address the significant environmental and supply challenges relating to old growth forests,” says Peter Torreele, Managing Director of 3RT.

The company uses advanced robotics and smart automation that allow for efficient and fast manufacturing anywhere on Earth using local wood species. Their technology licensing model includes a Bosch-made plug-and-play production unit that can be set up quickly to provide local solutions to local markets. These facilities remain connected to the Adelaide Innovation Centre for bespoke product development, quality control, upgrades and technical support.

3RT has recently undertaken successful Australia-wide product sales trials with Bunnings and continues to grow their range of products and manufacturing technologies. 3RT’s success has been recognised by becoming one of three finalists in the South Australia Innovator of the Year awards 2022.

A table produced using 3RT Designer Hardwood™

A staircase made using 3RT's product, and a photo from the factory floor.

March 23, 2023