Mr John Mai


Website School of Civil Engineering

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Research interests

Traditional manufacturing techniques produce waste, in the form of materials subtracted from the raw materials used to achieve the final product. In a world of finite resources, this is inefficient, and the waste often ends up in landfill. John Mai's research into additive manufacturing aims to ensure that all the resources used in manufacturing a product end up as part of the product itself.

"Additive manufacturing is an emerging technology with the potential to allow complex geometries that also inspire architectural innovations. It challenges us to create a structure that builds to a form, rather than building around standard prefabricated products.

"My research looks specifically at additive manufacturing with wood-plastic composites. This combines 'wood flour', a waste product of wood construction, with recycled plastics. One of the challenges is integrating structure and aesthetics: a product that looks like natural wood is more desirable than one with a plastic and monochromatic appearance.

"My research incorporates both computer modelling and physical manufacturing with 3D printers. The goal is to expand the 3D printing process so that it works more efficiently on a larger scale, rather than just being used for prototype modelling. This would be a leap from existing results that use small sample sizes and low extrusion rates.

"Incorporating an outer skin aesthetic as part of the manufacturing process allows us to create a product that is market ready, and has the potential to eliminate the need to mould a wood veneer to structures such as facades, saving resources and time.

"In the long term I hope this technology will have practical applications beyond prototype modelling and small-scale parts. Combining structure and aesthetics in a process that builds to form will change the way designers and planners go about building things, with the end product being something that can simply be installed without further tweaks or modifications."

Teaching and supervision

CIVL2110 - Materials

Selected publications

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Conferences

  • Mai, J., Thistleton, C., Loschke, S., Proust, G., Dong, A. (2016). Towards a New Techno-Aesthetic Paradigm: Experiments with Pattern, Texture and Colour in 3D-Printed Wood-Plastic Composites. The 27th Annual International Solid Freeform Fabrication (SFF) Symposium - An Additive Manufacturing Conference, Austin: Laboratory for Freeform Fabrication and University of Texas at Austin.

2016

  • Mai, J., Thistleton, C., Loschke, S., Proust, G., Dong, A. (2016). Towards a New Techno-Aesthetic Paradigm: Experiments with Pattern, Texture and Colour in 3D-Printed Wood-Plastic Composites. The 27th Annual International Solid Freeform Fabrication (SFF) Symposium - An Additive Manufacturing Conference, Austin: Laboratory for Freeform Fabrication and University of Texas at Austin.

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