Paste your Google Webmaster Tools verification code here

Saving the World with 3D Printing

The Persian Gulf is under threat.  The coral reef ecosystem in waters off Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain has been badly damaged and destroyed by coastal and offshore development – which, according to Forbes, “involves large-scale dredging, infilling, coastal modifications, and the creation of artificial waterways.”  Indeed, “the World Resources Institute estimates that coral cover in Bahrain has dropped from at least 50 percent in the 1980s to nearly zero percent today.”  Into this crisis stepped Reef Arabia.  The company designs and manufactures artificial reefs, or as they like to call them, constructed reefs.  Their goal is to “regenerate precious ocean habitat and improve fish populations.”  “The Reef Arabia team – made up of experts from the local area and members of Australia-based Sustainable Oceans International (SOI) – has already submerged nearly 3,000 concrete Reef Balls and custom designed reef units near Bahrain.”  However, Reef Arabia has begun working on a new strategy.  As David Lennon, Reef Arabia team member and director at SOI explains, these concrete constructed reefs have their drawbacks, which is why he prefers a sandstone-like substance: “sandstone, unlike concrete, is closer to a natural earth rock and has a neutral pH surface which makes it more attractive to coral larvae looking for a home.”  Therefore, “Reef Arabia, in collaboration with SOI, 3D program specialist James Gardiner, and rapid manufacturing experts DShape, is pioneering a new 3D printed reef unit made of non-toxic patented sandstone material.  Two of these 3D printed reefs – weighing 1,100 pounds – were sunk off the coast of Bahrain last fall.”  Not only are these reefs far more natural than their concrete counterparts, but also because they are 3D printed, they allow for greater flexibility in design, which “allows the Reef Arabia team to create more intricate [reef] patterns found in natural coral structures.”  These sorts of designs are critical, according to Lennon, “because diversity in habitat drives diversity of species, a major factor in creating an ecosystem resilient to climate change.”  These prototype reef units were made from scratch in a week, and cut down the project’s carbon footprint.  Lennon concludes that “if we did a detailed count we would find the 3D units have a greater number of different types of fish and the crevices created by the [more complex and natural patterns] will support more cryptic fish, crabs, and shrimp which the concrete Reef Balls or other units can’t.”

Video Courtesy of Reef Arabia

Photo and Quotes Courtesy of Forbes Magazine     

Share Button
This entry was posted in Archive.

Leave a Reply