Oct. 30, 2012

An Australian-Bahraini team has taken artificial reef design to a new level: The team has 3D printed its first reef units that stand 1m high and weigh 500kg each, the reefs look very similar to natural sandstone reefs. This is a major step forward in a bid to restore lost and damaged reefs around the world.

The recent announcement the Great Barrier Reef has lost half of its coral and the unrelenting global demand placed on recreational and commercial fisheries has increased the urgency of funding constructed reefs. Constructed reefs or 'artificial reefs' as they are commonly called are typically made using precast concrete, however traditional moulding systems are unable to reproduce the wonderful complexity and diversity of natural reefs.

In a world first, an advanced construction sized 3D printer has been used to produce coral reefs and this new patent pending technique is a major step forward in the creation and restoration of reefs.

The team includes Sustainable Oceans International (SOI) a specialist reef design consultancy in Australia, James Gardiner an award winning architect, and Reef Arabia a reef construction company in the Arabian Gulf.

In 2010, SOI awarded the annual 'Sustainable Ocean Innovation award' to Sydney architect James Gardiner, the director of Faan Studio for his world first conceptual reef project using a construction size 3D printer to print complex reef units to replace lost reefs or build new ones. James has worked with a number of companies developing innovative construction techniques, including D-Shape with whom he designing and fabricated the worlds first '3D printed column'.

(computer rendered 3D model)

(3D printed reef unit from a patented
sandstone material. Process allows infinite variations of each unit just as nature provides as well as
the ability to replicate natural features or manmade objects.)

Traditionally, artificial reef units are made from concrete poured into a mould, but this method lacks the complexity of caves, connecting tunnels and the appearance of a natural reef. Most precast concrete reef units look artificial and this is something SOI has been working hard to change.

"We currently use one of the most natural looking concrete and mould systems available to build our reefs, but these 3D printed units are amazing in comparison. You can't tell the difference from real rock and the advantage is that we can engineer them to have very specific features that suit target marine species" says David Lennon, Director of SOI.

SOI and James Gardiner made four world first prototype units to trial. Two have been purchased by Reef Arabia and shipped to Bahrain for a special reef restoration project and two have just arrived in Australia.

The Arabian Gulf's leading artificial reef construction company, Reef Arabia, will soon deploy the first 3D printed reef unit off the north coast of Bahrain. This unit will sit with 270 standard concrete precast reef units and will be closely monitored to gauge its effectiveness.

"This is very exciting and for us and it's what I imagine it was like to watch the first plane take off in 1903 – witnessing the birth of a new era. It is a reflection of how advances in manufacturing technology can help us repair human impacts on the environment" said David.


Image credit / Source: Sustainable Oceans International


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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Ted wrote at 8/3/2016 11:58:37 PM:

Please contact me ASAP. Teddy.acker@yahoo.com

Dave wrote at 9/3/2014 9:51:40 AM:

There is no mould and no waste material, the 3D printer uses a special type of concrete to 3D print the finished product.

Richard Barone wrote at 11/4/2013 9:22:08 PM:

3d printed? does it print with concrete? or is the mold 3d printed? dont really understand,,nice article.

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