Analysis and Commentary

Our search for Australia’s 50 most innovative manufacturers – 3RT

Analysis and Commentary

As @AuManufacturing continues our search to identify Australia’s 50 most innovative manufacturers we look at a deeply market-driven and technical path to innovation. Here Peter Roberts profiles 3RT.

As a former Managing Director of the World Economic Forum and senior executive of a number of European businesses, Peter Torreele, Founder and Managing Director of 3RT is uniquely positioned to comment on the state of innovation in manufacturing.

But in our interview, he dodges the question, leaving it for politicians while he runs his high technology business that has developed robotic machines to process forest waste into solid wood that looks and acts like genuine hardwood.

Torreele said: “I came to Australia because we believe that Asia is the future, and in Australia you are very well located.

“It’s a very advanced economy, it has wonderful universities and it has a government, especially state governments, which are prepared to invest in companies.

“For us at 3RT the most important advantage for us was the R&D tax refunds, which are a god-send – you spend $100 and at the end of the year you get $47 back in cash.

“It’s an amazing way to manage your cash flow while being incentivised to invest in R&D.”

Torreele conceived his idea for 3RT when working for a Chinese company manufacturing bamboo flooring – in the timber processing sector he saw massive waste of material and immediately saw massive opportunity if that could be utilised.

Leaving China, which he found still in the copycat phase of company development, though that is changing slowly, he said: “I saw that if you can do this with a grass, that is bamboo, we can do that with all this waste which is around the world in timber supply chain. That was the germ of the idea which grew to create 3RT.

“Innovation always comes from unexpected corners – innovation equals curiosity.”

Most engineered woods such as glued laminated timber or glulam type products are already penetrating the construction sector but they have drawbacks.

“The uniqueness of our technology is basically in trying to address the shortage of wood in the world there are a lot of plantations being grown but a tree takes time – a plantation takes up to 80 years for hardwoods to be ready. Glulam products are using a lot of mature wood from those plantations.”

3RT linked up with scientists from Flinders University in Adelaide to develop ways to convert low-value juvenile logs in a single machine into logs with the properties of 100 year old timber.

“That’s why we say we grow trees in a machine.”

3RT’s guiding principles were – the end product had to look and feel like real wood, it had to be free of toxic glues – in other words it needed new water-based glues – and the sale price should be not more than the natural equivalent.

To allow production in high wage countries, 3RT turned to automation and to Bosch Australia Manufacturing Solutions who created a robotic machine that uses temperature and pressure to produce finished logs in only 20 minutes.

Torreele makes a distinction between optimisation, and innovation which is doing things differently.

“Innovation always comes from outside an industry.

“It is a big statement. Industry experts do not do innovation, they do optimisation. In our case that’s why we work with those partners like Flinders University.”

The company’s partners from Flinders came from the plastics sector and from IBM Watson, while Bosch comes from the automotive sector – they never looked at wood before. Meanwhile a third partner Henkel is a global adhesives company

3RT has established a 6,000 square metre innovation facility in Adelaide, supported by the South Australian government, and has spent a long time supplying its product to potential users free of charge.

The business model from here on is that Bosch will manufacture the machines in Melbourne or Europe, with 3RT supplying them to licensees and maintaining them in an equipment as a service (EAAS) offering.

The company has initial licensees in Europe and a distributorship in Asia.

“It is basically a licensing model.

“People can buy the machine from us and all those units are digitally connected to our innovation centre, where we constantly do data analytics just to keep on learning, and performing preventative maintenance.”

Picture: Peter Torreele

Is you company one of Australia’s 50 most innovative manufacturers? We want to hear from you.



Australia’s 50 Most Innovative Manufacturers is a new campaign by @AuManufacturing. It has been made possible by the generous support of  MYOB, SMC Corporation Australia, and Bosch Australia Manufacturing Solutions. Be sure to check back at this website for regular updates  including profiles of nominees and other information.


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