3D printing – the future

The rapid development of 3D printing is changing the world of manufacturing, as more industries gain the ability to ‘print’ a variety of products. CSIRO is pushing the frontiers of 3D printing metals for a wide range of applications, through its Lab22 operation.

A 20-year old American girl previously diagnosed with a rare bone cancer (chondrosarcoma) received a life boost in 2017 through the implant of a customised sternum and partial rib-cage made from 3D printed titanium and a polymer.

This was the latest in a series of medical success stories from CSIRO’s additive manufacturing operations, achieved in collaboration with a medical implant company Anatomics, and the surgeons who performed the implants.

“CSIRO provides Australian companies with access to metal additive manufacturing, or 3D printing technologies that deliver competitive advantage through efficiency and productivity gains,” says Dr Daniel East, Director, CSIRO’s additive manufacturing centre Lab22.

Above: Lab22 breaks down barriers for small business entry into 3D printing.

“Lab22 in Melbourne, is our $6 million additive manufacturing centre, with the latest technology enabling Australian industry to 3D print out of sand, titanium and other metals.” Apart from metallic 3D printing of titanium aluminium and the like, Lab22 offers advanced machining, surface engineering and laser treatments to improve profitability and performance.

 Above: Industry can 3D print out of sand, titanium and other metals using Lab22 facilities.

“Our machines include powder bed, cold spray and blown powder approaches to introduce the raw materials, and can be used for a wide range of applications. Our designers can turn a new design idea into a testable prototype within a week.”

“What we’ve seen so far is the tip of the iceberg, as the range of materials and applications for 3D printing continue to expand at a staggering rate,” says Daniel.

What could 3D printing deliver in our cities?

3D printing is transforming manufacturing in a wide range of fields including medical, science, engineering, the arts and housing and construction.

Above: At Lab22, companies can explore and apply additive manufacturing technologies for big productivity gains.

As 3D printers get larger, so have the requests, with more companies targeting house construction in recent years. A number of companies advertise being able to build a 100 square metre house within 24 hours. In some cases, 3D printed house construction utilises a 360° robotic arm to feed mortar and insert electrical circuitry into the house structure.

While we don’t yet know the full extent of additive manufacturing (3D printing) applications at the Ginninderra sustainable urban development, “the potential is enormous” says Daniel.

“3D printing is changing our approaches to production, associated energy use and waste, and has the potential to totally transform the world of manufacturing in our cities of the future.”

A big surprise in the woods today

The 100 mm of rain on the last weekend of February brought a timely boost to the woodlands of Ginninderra and the shrubs planted by community volunteers in May 2017.

Venturing into the box gum woodlands at Ginninderra shortly after the deluge of 25 February, CSIRO staff were greeted by a shrubby panorama across the sites of the 2017 community plantings.

Just eight months after the army of scouts, local residents, community and Green Army volunteers swarmed onto the site with mattocks, spades and shovels, CSIRO senior ecologist, Jacqui Stol said it was pleasing to see the survival rates and how much some shrubs have grown.

Above: Shrubs planted during CSIRO’s 2017 community planting days are thriving!  

“Some species particularly the Acacias have grown rapidly and already a number of plants are over a metre tall,” says Jacqui. “This growth is encouraging particularly when you consider that many native trees and shrubs put their resources into root establishment first before accelerating their above ground growth.”

“There’s some variation in how well the plants have grown and survived but overall the establishment and growth of the planted tubestock has been excellent.”

The combined efforts of 130 community volunteers in May and the Aboriginal Green Army in June, saw more than 3500 shrubs planted into the Ginninderra Box Gum Grassy Woodlands.

“Restoring the shrub layer is helping increase the diversity of native plant, animal and bird life and boosting the overall quality of the woodlands,” says Jacqui.

This work is important because, across South-East Australia, only 10% of the Box Gum Woodlands and Derived Native Grasslands remain, and only about 5% remain in good condition.

“Our observations suggest that the native birds already use these areas for foraging,” says Jacqui. “Our regular spring and autumn monitoring surveys will provide more detailed information about native bird activity in these area.”

Good news – CSIRO will be hosting planting days again on Sunday 20 and 27 May

“This year we will focus on ‘dry forest’ shrub species such as Narrow-leaf Bitter Pea that is distinctive for its bright yellow and red flowers. We will also place more effort on plantings in a smaller number of plots, where we can make the most difference.”

Above: Narrow-leaf Bitter Pea – just one example of the ‘dry forest’ shrub species that will be planted during the May 2018 community planting days. Photo source: M Fagg, Australian National Botanic Gardens.

This year’s plantings will be held close to the 2017 sites and the ‘dry forest’ habitat will add value to the existing Box Gum Grassy Woodland plantings”.

Once again we will be working closely with the Ginninderra Catchment Group and a range of local community groups to bring this event to life.  We encourage you to mark those dates in the calendar and stay tuned for further information.

Above: Volunteers planting trees during the 2017 community planting days.

Above: Shrubs from the 2017 community planting days have responded well to recent rains.

Project update – March

Save the date – community planting days 2018

Heavy rains may have caused havoc in some parts of the capital recently, but the 100mm downfall provided welcome relief to 3500 shrubs planted by community volunteers at Ginninderra in May 2017.

CSIRO ecologist, Jacqui Stol reports seeing excellent survival rates and good growth in the plants across the sites, particularly among Acacia species some of which are topping a metre or more in height. Thanks again to the local residents, Scout groups, Aboriginal Green Army and wider community who played their part in the 2017 plantings!

Above: Shrubs planted during CSIRO’s 2017 community planting days are thriving! 

The good news is that the local community is invited to get involved in follow-up plantings on 20 and 27 May 2018.  We will again be working closely with the Ginninderra Catchment Group and other local community groups to build on the success of last year’s planting days and promote further ecological restoration in the Box Gum Woodlands.

Further information will be available shortly.

 Autumn grassland burns

The second round of Autumn burns occurred at the grassland restoration trial sites on Wednesday 7 March. The ACT Rural Fire Service expertly conducted the burns across five sites at CSIRO Ginninderra where the relative success of different burning, mowing and control treatments are being tested through a long-term study.

The Ginninderra Catchment Group and CSIRO Land and Water Research Fellow Dr Ken Hodgkinson are leading this research. We will be reporting soon about some of the early results and findings from this work.

Above: Members of the ACT Rural Fire Service conducting Autumn burns as part of ongoing research into the effects of fire on grassland restoration. 

Science planning continues

Science and innovation are distinguishing features of the future Ginninderra development and a key part of the vision to transform the project into a showcase sustainable urban community. CSIRO is continuing to engage our scientists and engineers and bring together the ideas, applications, technologies and systems to be trialled or introduced at Ginninderra.

We will continue to reveal more about the contribution of science and innovation as the project planning unfolds.

If you would like to know more about the Ginninderra Project, visit: or email us at

Strategies for turning down the heat

Cities of the future will be designed and adapted to buffer the extremes of the Australian climate. A CSIRO report sheds light on Canberra’s current urban surface heat patterns and some of the strategies that will be needed to help our cities adapt to future climate change.

As Canberra gets warmer and experiences more frequent and longer heatwaves, it’s never been more important to find ways of cooling our city. This is particularly so for vulnerable members of our community whose health can suffer when they are exposed to high temperatures.

To assist in planning to adapt Canberra to a changing climate, the ACT Government engaged CSIRO to map patterns of current surface urban heat across the city and to identify strategies that can provide cooling benefits. The report: Mapping Surface Urban Heat in Canberra was released by the Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability, Shane Rattenbury MLA on 28 February.

Above: Guy Barnett, report co-author (right) with Minister Shane Rattenbury, MLA at the report release.

The report identifies places that are hot in summer and helps to explain why some parts of Canberra are hotter than others, according to lead author and environmental analyst with CSIRO Land and Water, Jacqui Meyers.

“To produce maps of land surface temperature, CSIRO drew upon satellite thermal imagery available across the summer of 2016-17. Results showed that on the morning of February 9th 2017, a day that reached a maximum of 36°C, land surface temperatures varied by as much as 10 °C in suburban areas,” says Jacqui.

Leafy residential                                    New residential

Above: A well-established leafy suburb has a cooler land surface temperature than a new residential area.

“Warmer areas were found in commercial, industrial and new residential areas that have large expanses of roads, paving and roofs and few trees or green vegetation. Cooler areas were characterised by green irrigated vegetation, more tree cover, were near lakes, or were shaded by buildings or topography,” says Jacqui.

Above: Canberra hot spots defined as those areas above the mean land surface temperature of 35 °C.

Keeping our cool in Canberra and Ginninderra

The report provides information that will help with strategies and priorities for addressing urban heat in Canberra, including a range of actions that could be followed up in existing areas and work programs as well as opportunities to trial new approaches and innovations.

“Urban heat can be reduced through a mix of strategies and technologies that focus on urban design and the strategic use of vegetation, water and ‘cool’ materials that reflect sunlight and heat,” says Jacqui.

“At a greenfield site like Ginninderra, it will be important that vegetation and built structures are used to provide adequate shade, urban design is used to channel breezes along streets and in public spaces, and water is retained in the landscape through irrigation, lakes, and ponds.”

“Using cool building materials, or applying surface coatings, that absorb and retain less heat is also an important strategy to reduce the surface temperatures of buildings and pavements.”

Flash flood brings flashback to 1892

Canberra’s flash flood earlier this week and the swollen waters of Ginninderra Creek invoked a flashback to the fateful day when Ginninderra farmer Edward Crace took on the forces of nature.

The fierce rainstorm that lashed Canberra on Sunday 25 February (described as a one-in-100-year occurrence), transformed Ginninderra Creek from a lazy summer trickle into a river of foaming water – not for the first time in history!

Above: Floodwaters of Ginninderra Creek on Sunday 25 February. Photo source: Jack Mohr

On a fateful day in 1892, history books record that Ginninderra farming baron Edward Crace set out with his buggy and coachman George Kemp to cross the Creek.  They visited the Ginninderra store, close to where the Barton Highway roundabout and the easternmost tip of CSIRO Ginninderra are today. The story on the ACT Government’s Canberra Tracks for Palmerville Heritage Park goes like this:

“A thunderstorm had passed through that afternoon. Crace successfully negotiated the creek to Ginninderra but noticed as he did that water levels were rising. The local storekeeper George Harcourt warned Crace not to attempt the return crossing. However Crace ignored the warning and left anyway.

Shortly afterward, Harcourt’s children reported that the buggy was stuck in the creek. He then heard a cry from the creek and went to help. Harcourt went to get a rope and by the time he returned, Crace along with his buggy had fallen victim to the raging waters of the creek. Later that night, Crace’s body was found about half a mile further downstream. Kemp’s body was found several days later.”

Above: Old bridge at Palmerville Heritage Park.

At the time Crace, also known as the ‘Squire of Ginninderra’, was the owner of 20,000 acres of land including Charnwood station, and Ginninderra and Gungahleen (Gungahlin) Estates, including what is known today, as the CSIRO Ginninderra site.

Crace was running about 8,000 sheep, 700 Devon cattle and 90 horses. Crace’s main residence was the historic Gungahlin Homestead about 4 kilometres to the south-east of where the Ginninderra store once stood.

The same section of creek where Crace perished, adjoins the Palmerville Heritage Park, which in turn, is next door to CSIRO Ginninderra on its eastern boundary. First settled by employees of George Palmer in 1826, Palmerville has a rich history. Precious few above ground relics remain at the site today, but it’s possible to visit the places where the Ginninderra Cottage, woolshed, convict barracks and cricket field once were.

Above: From Palmerville looking towards the site of former Ginninderra Cottage and the area of the famous cricket field.

Inside the boundary of CSIRO Ginninderra, an earth mound marks the spot where Palmerville’s Ginninderra Cottage once stood and an old oak tree and bay laurel are remnants from these days of early European settlement.

These features together with other Indigenous and European heritage identified on-site are exactly the things CSIRO will recognise and look after through heritage management at Ginninderra. These features and stories like those of Crace and Palmer are an intrinsic part of the place we celebrate as ‘Ginninderra’.