Tessa’s Weekly Picks – 3D Printed Reefs


Tessa Blokland  


Last week, I wrote a blog post on concrete columns, but there are more applications with concrete, like 3D printed reefs. So, if you are planning to spend your summer holiday near one of these locations, you might as well take a look underwater and explore these amazing projects.

One of the examples of concrete, as well as ceramic application, is from Melbourne-based Reef Design Lab, responsible for the world’s largest 3D printed coral reef (see top image) in the Maldives. The artificial reef, designed by Alex Goad, consists of hundreds of ceramic and concrete modules, each designed to look and feel like real coral. The goal behind this research is to explore the potential of 3D printing artificial reefs and to encourage the growth of natural coral and sustain the species that depend on it for protection.

Equally concerned about sealife is design studio Emerging Objects. Together with the California Academy of Sciences, the Autodesk Foundation, and in consolation with SECORE scientists, the studio designed six new seeding unit prototypes. These 3D printed ceramic units should be attractive for coral larvae to settle on, as well as giving them shelter to enhance the otherwise very low natural survival rate of coral settlers in the wild. Here is where design comes in: experimenting with the right shape, surface texture, and material to make the units attractive for corals to settle on while hampering the growth of competing organisms such as algae. You can find the units in the seas in the area of Guam, Curacao, Barbados, Australia, and Mexico.

In the Calanques National Park in France, you will find the first prototype 3D printed reef from Seaboost and XtreeE. Thanks to 3D printing is was possible to produce a complex geometry at a low cost. The reef, designed in collaboration with biologists, has been optimized to maximize the reproduction and population of underwater species, such as fish, crustaceans, corals, algae, and mollusks.

3DPare, part of the Interreg Atlantic Area Program, is a European funding program for the development of innovative artificial reefs for sustainable management of the marine ecosystems of the Atlantic Area. The research group Giteco of the University of Cantabria produced 36 3D printed concrete reefs, to be sent to Spain, France, Portugal, and the UK. The 36 artificial reefs are placed at the sea bottom in all locations and will dive periodically to assess the bio-receptivity of the new reefs.

The last 3D printed reefs can be found in the southwest of the Netherlands for an oyster reef restoration research project in the North Sea. In 2017 Reef Design Lab designed a series of 3D printed reef units, in a way that the units can be lifted easily and not flipping over while underwater. The units were 3D printed in Rotterdam by Dutch dredging and heavy-lift company Boskalis, using D-shape technology. The units vary in sizes ranging from 50cm high to 120cm high and will be monitored over the coming years.

LEO Lane_Weekly Pick_3D Printed Reefs

Each of Tessa’s weekly picks is a curated group of 3D printed designs, based on the week’s chosen theme. If you would like to offer a theme for Tessa, or if you have your own 3D printed weekly picks you would like to see featured, please let us know by commenting below. Subscribe to the newsletter to get the latest weekly picks every week in your mailbox.

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