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03-03-2020 | Manufacturing | News | Article

Saving the coral reefs

Author:
Leyla Buchholz
1:30 min reading time

The manufacturing specialist FIT Additive Manufacturing Group has been working on innovative and commercially viable solutions in the field of additive manufacturing with ceramics since 2015. In a current project, the company is demonstrating how the geometrical freedom of the process can be used for environmental protection.

Ceramic Printing, the combination of 3D printing with ceramics, brings together 30,000 years of cultural history with contemporary high-tech industry. Today, state-of-the-art engineering not only produces technical ceramics for numerous industrial applications, but also astonishes with completely new design possibilities.

The following example shows that the freedom of geometry in combination with the material can also be used for active environmental protection in the form of bionic structures for revitalizing endangered coral reefs.

Bionic design for the protection of corals
 

Within the last 30 years, almost half of the world's coral stocks have died. One measure to prevent this ecological catastrophe are artificial coral elements made of ceramics, which are manufactured in bionically adapted forms using 3D printing.

To save the coral stocks, Secore International Inc, a leading organization for coral reef protection and restoration, and Autodesk, a manufacturer of 3D printing software, have joined forces with FIT Additive Manufacturing Group. The requirements for the coral body design were a geometry that anchors the substrate bodies lightly and permanently to the coral reefs, suitable surface textures and cavities that serve as protection for the coral larvae, and ease of handling during the fertilization process and seeding by the scuba divers.

Optimal for colonization by coral larvae is a nature-inspired, four-armed form with bulges, cavities and hollow spaces. Conventionally, however, such detailed forms are hardly producible. FIT and Autodesk are working together to further develop basic bodies. The latest generation of colonization bodies, for example, has a surface area that has been enlarged by a factor of 3.4, since it contains a large number of small cavities, pores and hollow spaces in which the coral larvae find particularly good protection and support.

The special challenges for the printing process lie in the filigree form, because the tips of the arms can easily break off, especially in the fragile blank state. For firing, the blanks are therefore placed on special supporting structures which also prevent distortion due to sagging during the firing process. The corals are intentionally not glazed, as the roughness caused by the process is beneficial to coral growth.

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