July 22, 2015 | By Simon

Although we may spend a majority of our time hearing about how additive manufacturing is helping to revolutionize the way things are made in a few select industries, the potential uses for 3D printing in other industries are slowly starting to reveal themselves as more experts become acquainted with the technology.  

Among others, the aquarium and reef keeping community are learning how to leverage the technology to create customized solutions for ensuring that their fish and other marine life are living under the best conditions possible.   

More recently, Marine Biosystems, a maker of top quality marine aquarium filtration equipment including biopellet reactors, has been exploring the possibilities of 3D printing to create a more optimized biopellet reactor design with their F5 Biopellet Reactor, which is used for controlling nitrate and phosphate levels in marine aquariums.

Similar to other design improvements that have been performed on the reactors, the ultimate goal of the design changes is to improve the churning of the media to deliver better flow while also minimizing the rate of clumping in an effort to improve the overall efficiency of the reactor.  The company’s own ‘F5’ biopellet reactor also uses a patent-pending finned lifting plate to lift the entire biopellet mass on a cushion of water.  

According to reefbuilders, a news source for reef hobbyists, the new 3D printed assembly design functions similar to how an avalanche forms on a mountain, “where a thin shear layer breaks loose and the rest of the material from above flows easily.”

“The unique feature of these reactors is the dispersion plate, which cannot be easily injection molded or milled from acrylic,” explains Marine Biosystems founder Tom Blaha. “When water is passed through the plate — the shape of the plate combined with the radially spaced vertical outlet holes — forces the water under the pellets in a broad shearing sheet.  The weight of stationary pellets above forces that sheet to build pressure until it lifts the entire pellet column upward, releasing it from the bottom the reactor. Once it’s lifted, then it begins moving and ‘fluidizes’.”

Despite the limitations that are associated with using 3D printing as a method of final fabrication, the design team at Marine Biosystems has managed to work around them and offer custom design solutions on a case-by-case basis rather than resorting to one-size-fits-all mass production orders.  

While they may not receive as much attention as other custom-built product designs, reef aquariums have long been one of the original ‘one-off’ products for customers who are looking to go beyond the store-bought varieties.  Of course, each of these custom solutions have also historically required their own custom filtrations systems, too.

As the aquarium community continues to warm up to using 3D printing, we’re likely to see a lot more hobbyists and manufacturers turning to additive manufacturing rather than taking traditional manufacturing routes.  



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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