Construction 3D PrintingSustainability

3DPARE deploys 3D printed reefs off the coasts of England, France and Spain

Portugal up next

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After finalizing the 3D printed reefs in the labs of the Civil Engineering School of the University of Cantabria, 3DPARE is deploying them off the Atlantic coasts of England, France and Spain. Portugal is next in line.

The 3DPare project has a €1.9 million budget, funded by the Interreg Atlantic Area program, which promotes actions of innovation and competitivity, biodiversity, natural and cultural goods and the cooperation among the 37 regions of the Atlantic arc. The consortium is integrated by the University of Cantabria and the Ecole Supérieure d’Ingénieurs des Travaux de la Construction de Caen, the Instituto Português do Mar, Universidade do Porto and Bournemouth University.

The production of the reefs posed a great challenge since they are almost one-meter pieces with a weight close to one ton. From the total 36 pieces, 9 stayed in Santander, while the other 27 were sent to three partner centers in the project: Ecole Supérieure d’Ingénieurs des Travaux de la Construction de Caen, Universidade do Porto and Bournemouth University.

The 36 structures are now being placed at the sea bottom in Caen (France), Porto (Portugal), Bournemouth (United Kingdom) and Santander for their subsequent monitoring by marine biologists who will dive periodically to assess the bio-receptivity of the new reefs.

On Tuesday, March 17th Bournemouth University successfully deployed the 3DPARE 3D printed artificial reef units on the seabed in Poole Bay, South coast of England. With the help of a barge and surface-supplied divers the reef units were positioned alongside an existing breakwater. There are four artificial reef designs and each design has been 3D printed in two different concrete mixes, creating a total of 8 reef units.

3D printed reefs

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Sustainability of Additive Manufacturing

All of the reef units contain holes, tunnels, and overhangs- features that provide suitable habitat for marine life. We also deployed a control unit that consisted of a solid concrete cube, half with a 3D printed finish and the other half with a smooth concrete finish. The eight artificial reef units and control block were placed in a straight line parallel to the breakwater and each separated by 3m.

On May 18th and 19th, 2020, ESITC Caen, in collaboration with the MNHN, successfully immersed the 3D printed artificial reefs in the Bay of Saint Malo (Brittany, France). A total of eight 3DPARE reefs were immersed along with one control block. The reefs have 2 different designs and concrete formulations, with holes and tunnels. The deployment was carried out on the site named FETLAR, according to the protocol set up for the project.

3D printed reefs

AM Focus 2020 eBook

Sustainability of Additive Manufacturing

On May 20th, research Group GITECO immersed 9 artificial reefs in the Santander bay (Cantabria, Spain). A team of divers placed 9 reefs under close supervision by Elena Blanco, UC researcher from the applied research group GITECO of the University of Cantabria, led by Professor Daniel Castro, on the seabed in front of the Torre and Horadada islets, next to the Magdalena, from the Pedreña dock. The objective of the 3DPare project is to study how these reefs promote the recovery of the marine biodiversity in degraded marine ecosystems such as port environments.

Initially, the researchers studied the most suitable materials according to their resistance and facility to print, from a total of 150 samples, identifying the 6 best, which were tested in Puerto Chico during an immersion period. The materials include cement, geopolymers or aggregates coming from waste with the aim to develop more sustainable mortars. The criteria to take into account were cost, medium-term resistance, environmental impact, and adhered biomass.

3D printed reefs

The reefs are identical in the 4 locations: 8 reefs of 2 types of material and 4 different shapes (cubic or random, simulating a natural rock and with big or small external bumps) together with a control piece with two different finishes: smooth or rough. The designs follow biological principles with regards to the size of the caves for the entry of determined species of fish, algae adherence, bioreceptivity, etc. The fabrication of the reefs conditioned the work of the 3D printer not only concerning the criteria mentioned above but also it was necessary to adapt the printing technique to corbels, domes and galleries, which was not sufficiently developed then.

After placing the groups of reefs a period of years follows to study and monitor the evolution of the results, taking samples and observing the attraction and growth of flora and fauna in each group to finally be able to conclude the most adequate materials and shapes to regenerate marine life in each of the four locations.


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Davide Sher

Since 2002, Davide has built up extensive experience as a technology journalist, market analyst and consultant for the additive manufacturing industry. Born in Milan, Italy, he spent 12 years in the United States, where he completed his studies at SUNY USB. As a journalist covering the tech and videogame industry for over 10 years, he began covering the AM industry in 2013, first as an international journalist and subsequently as a market analyst, focusing on the additive manufacturing industry and relative vertical markets. In 2016 he co-founded London-based VoxelMatters. Today the company publishes the leading news and insights websites and, as well as VoxelMatters Directory, the largest global directory of companies in the additive manufacturing industry.

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