Over the last few years, the environmental burden that accompanies population growth has taken a serious toll on many coral reefs around the world. 3D printing service XtreeE has collaborated with marine life restoration company Seaboost in an initiative to find a solution and sustain fish and plant populations.
The team have developed a 3D printed artificial coral reef to be placed at the Calanques National Park in France for a test run. The 3D printed reef will accurately resemble the complex structures of a real coral reef based on 3D scans of existing reefs around the region. The 3D structure hopes to increase populations of sea species.
To ensure compatibility and uptake by fish, XtreeE will use materials sourced at location that mimic coral, such as concrete and sand, to print the structures.
Coral reefs take hundreds of years to form. Given the speed of ongoing man-made habitat destruction, reefs wouldn’t have time to recover. This makes projects such as XtreeE’s more vital than ever. If proven successful, many more reefs could be up for restoration using 3D printing technologies.
“There is no silver bullet with coral restoration,” explains Fabien Cousteau, the ocean conservationist and documentary filmmaker. “You are talking about a very complex environment, a complex animal with a lot of variations with each subspecies. All of this is an experiment. In the short term, we’ve seen a lot of positive momentum with certain species of coral. But remember, this is a drop in the bucket in a very, very large ocean.”
With the rise of bio-printing technologies and ongoing material developments, reefs could also be printed using actual coral in the near future.
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