August 23, 2018

3D Printing Supports Coral Reef Ecosystem in Maldives

News Source: SDG Knowledge Hub

Author(s): Leila Mead

16 Aug 2018: A team of researchers has designed and 3D printed an artificial reef to help promote the growth of a coral reef ecosystem in Maldives. The Summer Island Maldives resort is using the artificial reef made from hundreds of ceramic and concrete modules to build a new coral reef ecosystem.

An Australian industrial engineer with the Reef Design Lab began the project, using computer modeling to build a reef that resembled those found in the Maldives region. The 3D printing process took 24 hours. The molds were then cast in ceramic, which is similar to limestone rock, shipped to Maldives, filled with marine concrete, and assembled and submerged seven meters deep. The coral is now an integral part of the lagoon where the new coral reef ecosystem will be assembled.

In total, 220 ceramic molds were filled with concrete and put together to create a larger reef. As the ceramic and concrete modules are white and therefore do not resemble the surrounding coral, the projects aims to encourage growth and provide a home for marine life, rather than replicate the reef’s natural aesthetic. Real coral fragments were transplanted onto the 3D printed reef, with the expectation that these corals will soon colonize the ceramic molds.

Over the coming years, marine biologists will study the 3D printed reef and its benefits. The 3D designs are open source for use by other researchers free of charge.

The Summer Island Maldives resort has also taken other environmentally-friendly actions, such as banning plastic straws, using solar energy and not importing drinking water. [Ocean Action Hub News Story]