Coral reefs are important not only for the millions of species that live in them, but also for people. Reefs protect coastlines from storm surges during violent storms and they also provide a lot of income from tourism and fishing. However, coral reefs are currently in serious trouble. 50 percent of the reefs in the world have died in the last 30 years and 90 percent of the remaining reefs can die off in the next century if no action is taken to save them. The reefs suffer from various threats: climate change, overfishing, damage to boats and other man-made damage.
People can be responsible for threatening the coral reefs, but many people also take responsibility for saving and restoring them. 3D printing has proven to be an effective way to create artificial coral reefs, which are then dropped into the ocean where they hope. Free-floating coral polyps will attach to them and grow into new coral structures. That coral will then attract the fish and other species that make their homes into reefs, and a new, natural reef will grow from the artificial seed material.
Several reefs have already been printed 3D and sunk into the ocean, and now Reef Design Lab, an Australian organization dedicated to making artificial reefs, has created what appears to be the largest 3D printed artificial coral reef so far . 3D molds of the reef structures were 3D printed in 24 hours and then used to cast the structures into ceramics, similar to the calcium carbonate found in real coral reefs. The 3D-printed molds were printed in Australia and shipped to the Maldives, filled with concrete, collected on Summer Island and then dropped into the ocean, where they are now resting seven meters below the surface.
Live coral was then transplanted into the artificial reef, where it hopefully grows and colonizes the artificial structure, forming a new, living reef.
"3D printing technology helps us to develop more innovative ways to protect coral reefs and to replicate the complexity of natural reef structures so that we can design artificial reefs that are very similar to the reefs in nature," said Alex Goad of Reef Design Lab. "We hope this is a more effective way to grow and restore corals."
Making artificial reefs is not new – people have used sunken ships and concrete blocks to attract coral in the past. 3D printing, however, allows to imitate the natural structure of coral reefs, which attracts more marine life. In this case, Goad used CAD to design replicas of naturally occurring coral reef structures before rendering these 3D prints. The complex forms of natural reefs are difficult to create in another way, so 3D printing has become a valuable asset in creating these reefs.
It will take several years for coral and the other species that make reefs their home to populate the artificial structures, so we will not know if these 3D printed experiments really work. However, they show great promise and for the 25% of marine species that depend on coral, aid can not come soon enough. Scientists hope that the Summer Island reef will be covered with coral within the next two years. If the project succeeds, more will probably follow.
"Projects such as the 3D-printed reef are popular among guests who like to protect our environment," said Mari Shareef, manager of the nearby Summer Island Resort. "And it's not just for the guests, our employees, most of whom are Maldivian, want to protect their environment." In the end, we want a culture of environmental stewardship & # 39; promote, not only on Summer Island, but in the Maldives. & # 39;
Discuss these and other 3D printing topics on 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below.[Source: Verdict/Images: Reef Design Lab]