Portfolio 5: Materials, manufacturing and applications

The aim of Portfolio 5 is that by 2025 New Zealand will be selling new customised products, equipment and materials based on New Zealand’s biological resources and distributed manufacturing; and that new companies are fuelling the growing global green sector.

We see a big opportunity for New Zealand in the application of biopolymers – natural products, to create new engineered products such as new plastic-like materials suitable for 3D printing into engineering components and furniture.

While New Zealand has significant scientific capability in this area, we recognise the science must be driven by commercial opportunities, with a tight focus on the areas in which New Zealand firms already have, or can build, a competitive edge.

Not only will there be applications for industries where New Zealand has already demonstrated market share such as aerospace and marine products, farming equipment and medical devices, but also in established industries with aspirations to diversify into new product lines for export.

The research will therefore be underpinned by materials and process modelling, materials science and design and engineering. It will predict the behaviour of the engineered biopolymers and biopolymer composites and the design required for the appropriate equipment to process new materials. 


Portfolio 5 Spearhead projects:

Additive manufacturing and 3D and/or 4D printing of bio-composites

This project researching additive manufacturing and 3D printing of bio- composites four main areas of focus:

  1. engineering lignin and protein biopolymers alone and in combination for processing by additive manufacturing
  2. engineering molecular interactions to improve properties when made by additive manufacturing
  3. engineering cellulose, lignin and protein nano/microfibres for low shear interactions and aligning and layering
  4. new additive manufacturing equipment for biopolymers to enable larger-scale processing and gradient structures.

Potential application areas include furniture, appliances, electronics, sensors, marine components, aerospace components, agritech and medical devices.


The team

  • Portfolio team leader – Elspeth MacRae
    • SCION - General Manager 
  • Dr Florian Graichen
    • SCION – speciality polymers and materials, bio-derived chemicals and polymers.
  • Dr Warren Grigsby
    • SCION – polyphenolics, biopolymer formulations, natural fibre composites and bio-carbon fibres.
  • Dr Marie Joo Le Guen
    • SCION – natural fibre and non-protein biopolymer processing in 3D printing.
  • Dr Sarat Singamneni
    • Auckland University of Technology – software development, rapid prototyping, design of 3D printing equipment.
  • Associate Professor Johan Potgieter
    • Massey University – mechatronics and robotics, design of 3D printing equipment.
  • Professor Simon Fraser
    • Victoria University – creative digital design for 3D printing.
  • Professor Juliet Gerrard
    • University of Auckland, MacDiarmid Institute, Callaghan Innovation –structure and function of proteins, protein aggregation and new application. 
  • Dr Jolon Dyer
    • AgResearch, Biomolecular Interaction Centre – protein chemistry and applications.
  • Professor Kim Pickering
    • University of Waikato – composite materials and materials technology.
  • Dr Mark Battley
    • University of Auckland – fibre reinforced polymer composites and sandwich structures.
  • Dr John Kennedy
    • GNS, MacDiarmid Institute – surface chemistry for polymers, nanotechnology.


Adaptive learning robots to complement the human workforce

This project aims to develop adaptable, cheaply reconfigured, rapidly deployed ‘workforce’ robots able to learn from their environments.

Underpinning future small-scale production of tailored, high value, robots with wide application and an eye on export is a particular focus of the research.


The team

Principal Investigators:

  • Dr Armin Werner
    • Lincoln Agritech
  • Associate Professor Will Browne
    • Victoria University
  • Associate Professor Johan Potgieter
    • Massey University.

The project involves researchers from Lincoln Agritech and SCION, as well as Auckland, Victoria, Massey, Canterbury and Otago Universities.