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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

3D Corals Printed

3D Corals Printed

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Sunday, November 25, 2018/Categories: wildlife conservation, marine life, sustainability, environment, climate change

                                  Artificial 3D Printed Corals (credit: Caribbean Journal)

3D Printing is a technology limited only by a user's immagination and creativity. The technology uses a 2D image and computer generates successive layers of a material to create a 3D object. It has been called the 3rd Industrial Revolution.

3D Printing typically requires plastic polymer gels to build objects from toys to machine parts but printers have been modified to utilize delicate biological materials. Human stem cells have been used to build new tissues and organs for surgical transplantation. A potentially exciting application is being imagined to restore reefs damaged by coral bleaching. Using 3D printed corals, the approach is being tried on degraded reefs around the Caribbean island of Bonaire.

Fabien Cousteau, of the famous oceanic family, is working with a beach resort to install artifical "corals" on the sea floor. The 3D corals will be made using local sand and seawater from Bonaire to mimic materials young corals would naturally recognize to colonize. The goal is to attract baby coral polyps to attach on the structures, grow, and rebuild living reefs. In commenting on this ecological restoration project Cousteau said:

“Coral reefs account for 25 percent of all reef life and $6.7 trillion of global economic development. Our initiative with 3-D printing will rapidly assist us in revitalizing more stressed or damaged areas."

The opportunity for using 3D Printing could attract a global audience to the technology to 'kickstart' local reef recovery projects. If the Bonaire tests are successful and cost effective, "printed" corals could be deployed to improve coral marine habitats anywhere. The model project could show how a digital technology may help threatened coral reefs everywhere.



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