3D Printing Helps Save Devastated Reefs
Over the past generations, we have seen and heard of many coral reefs being decimated by natural storms or human fishing techniques.
In this particular case in Hoi Ha Wan bay off the Sai Kung Peninsula in Hong Kong, the typhoon has reportedly destroyed 80% of the reef.
3D printing or Additive Manufacturing has been well known recently for its efforts to help with making items of Personal protective equipment faster and more affordable for the B2C and B2B markets. This came with experimentation and testing to find the right materials and things that are best suited to the task.
A team of marine architects and scientists at the university of hong kong are testing terracotta as the fundamental material to be used for this particular additive fabrication. And are keen to see the fruits of their labour pay off in long term use of their creation.
Using a ceramic FDM (fused deposition modelling) process, the tiles are designed with a separated and relatively random pattern allowing for the choral parts to grow within the gaps. Due to the process requiring terracotta, the printed designs are then baked to harden and are ready to be used as coral nurseries.
Terracotta was chosen along with various other tested materials as a best practice above using concrete to create the most eco-friendly and stable platform for the new coral to grow, due to the erosion of the hard rock banks and the coral platforms that were once thriving. The sands have spread over the terrain that was initially planned for the regrowth, so to combat the soft sand, which makes it hard for coral to root, the scientists have added feet to the tiles to ensure longevity.
The tiles are designed in layers, using biomimicry to replicate the geometry of a brain coral, so as not to interfere with the growth patterns of real coral.
“The top layer is based on a biomimetic approach and serves as the primary space to attach the coral fragments,” says Christian Lange, an associate professor of architecture at the University of Hong Kong and leader of its robotic fabrication lab. “We designed this part so that the marine biologist can insert the different coral species in six designated areas.”
The tiles only cover 40 sq m for now, but if the experiment works, it could be rolled out elsewhere. “Our hope is that the tiles provide a solid foundation for corals to reach a durable size,”
As long term enthusiasts and professionals of additive manufacturing, watching its ever-growing ability to adapt to the unexpected needs of our endeavours.
We can see more often than not that 3D printing as a whole from the small desktop printers of the kitchen surface, that allow parents and children to explore the reaches of their imaginations. Or to the B2B requirements of the changing facade of business and trade. More so now than ever, the advantages of adaptation are becoming a course of action for business large and small to survive.
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