Construction 3D PrintingMaritime Industry

Project to 3D Print Coral Reef Continues with Coralise Ceramic Substrates

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Coralise is a project by Jessica Gregory which aims to irradiate juvenile coral mortality (99%). The substrates are a unique ceramic material made of calcium carbonate from coral skeletons. This, along with its carefully designed organic form, attracts the coral larvae.

The pattern on the product replicates the corallite structures created as coral grows its skeleton, thus protecting juveniles in developmental stages. These substrates are created for lab research and ocean reefs.

There is a interesting and optimistic future for Coralise. It has gained interest from scientists all over the world due to it’s relationship with design and science. The project is set to develop within the near future, from 3D printing forms for a piece of Caribbean reef, working with Fabian Cousteau and appearing in a documentary. Research will also continue within the Horniman Museum (Jamie Craggs), where scientists are looking at how to spawn corals naturally within lab conditions.

The idea of using 3D printing to protect coral reefs has been around for sometime, as detailed in this National Geographic article. Scientists are using 3D printing technology that enables them to create fake reefs mimicking the texture and architectural structure of natural reefs in ways that haven’t been achieved in prior restoration efforts.

Experimental installations of these 3D printed reefs are going on in the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, the Persian Gulf, and Australia. If they succeed in the coming years in luring not only fish but also baby coral polyps, which attach themselves to structures and multiply, they can grow into new reefs and reestablish some of the most important habitats on Earth.

In 2016 Dutch marine company Boskalis created and installed six artificial reef modules at the Larvotto reserve in Monaco in 2016, as part of a 3D reef pilot project with Prince Albert II of Monaco’s foundation and the Monaco Larvotto Reserve. The reefs, consisting of sand, was constructed using large scale binder jetting D-shape 3D printing technology. They are being used to improve the ecology and the quality of the seawater at the reserve.

One of the coral reefs 3D printed by Boskalis using D-Shape binder jetting technology

The pilot project is being supervised by an international team of marine scientists who have researched topics including the foundations and reef geometry best suited to the development of marine life in the Larvotto reserve. All characteristics are incorporated into a single 3D design. Boskalis coordinated the design and production, and was also responsible for transporting the reefs to Monaco and installing them.

The installation was followed by extensive monitoring in order to compare the ecological development of the printed units with more traditional artificial reef units within the reserve. All parties involved view this as a unique opportunity to contribute to a new vision on artificial reef development. If the pilot is successful, it could make an important contribution to boosting biodiversity and building or restoring ecosystems around the world.

In this early case, Dolomite sand in combination with a marine-safe binding agent was used to make the artificial reef units. Six reef units were printed in Italy, using a D-Shape printer. Each unit has an outer dimension of 2 meters in diameter and 1 meter in height, and at a glance resembled a mushroom. Each unit weighed approximately 2.5 tons when dry.

The reef units were transported by truck from Italy to the loading port, Port Hercules in Monaco, and installed by a professional dive team, well experienced in artificial reef installation at the Larvotto Reserve.

Using actual Coral skeleton as the base material, the Coralise Kit represents yet another step forward and aims to create a connection with coral. It was crucial to create a product that would allow people to understand and appreciate coral, as its huge decline is mainly due to human actions. The kit includes a substrate, pegs and an informational illustrated book. The coral grows onto the pegs which slot into the corallite inspired holes, allowing the user to curate their own miniature coral reef without the contact of harmful adhesives.

Coral is a complex and fragile organism. It is very important to humanity as well as the planet, of which many people do not know or fully understand. Coral Reefs are one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. Around one quarter of ocean biodiversity depends on these reefs for food and shelter. But, due to human factors such as pollution, climate change and sedimentation, 30% of the existing reefs could vanish in the next 30 years, in addition to the vast amount of reefs which have already been lost.



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