Printing Impressions brings us a comprehensive story about printing on wood. In the past this has been an expensive process, involving high set-up costs, including normally the engraving of a gravure cylinder. Furthermore the gravure system limited the pattern repeat to the diameter of the gravure roll. Digital printing frees us from these restrictions and also enables us to print 3-dimensional patterning. By reducing the set-up cost so much, digital printing allows for the production of very short runs, almost customized printing.

The Economist recently ran a story about the use of engineered timber in construction. By laminating different types of wood together you can create a material with incredible strength. So strong that we now see that it can be used to construct multi-storey buildings. The proposed River Beech Tower in Chicago will, at 228 metres (about 748 feet), be the world’s tallest wooden building. The current record, a mere 85 metres, is held by the Mjøstårnet building in Norway (below).

The manufacture of two of our most common building materials, steel and concrete, generate around 8% of the world’s anthropogenic carbon-dioxide emissions. But when trees grow they take carbon out of the atmosphere, locking it up in their wood. Wood construction keeps that carbon there. Engineered timber with its different layers can be designed to meet the requirements of specific components and it will have fire resistance engineered in. Clearly this material which is prefabricated into larger units in the factory could also be printed to give it any appearance we want — chose your wallpaper pattern before your walls are constructed.

Here’s Michael Ramage of the Department of Architecture at the University of Cambridge talking about the idea:

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At the other end of the telescope I was struck by another story from The Economist, telling us about The Baltimore Wood Project. The wood used in the nineteenth century building boom in Baltimore was old-growth, and is thus stronger and better-looking than our current wood-farmed product. Great to be able to reuse a lot of it.

In a quantum leap down this alternative-approaches rabbit hole The Economist, ever alert to 3-D printing developments, tells us this week about Alt-Steak™, a 3-D printed plant-based meat. Here’s the story from Foodnavigator. The originator, Redefine Meat, worked with “leading butchers, chefs and food technologists — as well as leveraging ‘close collaboration’ with flavors expert Givaudin — to digitally map more than 70 sensorial parameters into its Alt Steak product. These include the texture, juiciness, fat distribution and mouthfeel of ‘premium beef cuts’.” Apparently the Alt-Steak will be road-tested in “high-end restaurants” later this year. Can’t wait to test those sensorial parameters. Goodbye methane!