Discover How 3D Printing Can Be Harnessed to Save Coral Reefs

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This post tells you more about how 3D printing can be used to save our coral reefs. The ocean makes up most of the planet’s surface and is home to many marine species. Ensuring the survival of all marine life, from the gigantic blue whale down to microscopic bacteria, is essential in maintaining a balanced ecosystem. Unfortunately, there are already plenty of endangered marine species, some already on the verge of extinction. One of the marine lives facing this threat is none other than coral reefs, which is why ensuring their survival is essential. 

How are coral reefs doing in the world right now?

Coral reefs are underwater ecosystems crucial to the lives of numerous animals and plants, providing some of the most diverse ecosystems on earth. However, climate change has negatively and dramatically affected the world’s coral reefs. Ocean temperatures are rising, and there is increasing acidification in warmer waters that may lead to coral bleaching and death. Once corals die, all the lives depending on them will also perish, around twenty-five percent of all ocean life. 

Even though coral reefs only make up 0.2% of the world’s oceans, they serve as the home to a quarter of ocean life, such as fish, sea turtles, crabs, zooplankton, algae, and more. They also protect coasts from storms and erosion. It is estimated that around 500 billion people depend on these coral reefs for income or food. Once the reefs start to die, it is fair to assume that there will be severe effects on ocean life and the people who earn their incomes from coastal and ocean tourism. 

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Coral reefs are sadly enduring the most prolonged and persistent recorded bleaching event. The warmer waters are now cooking coral, sapping the life and color of the reefs. Coral colonies are made of small, squishy polyps sticking to the seafloor rocks. The polyps produce calcium carbonate at the base, and these secretions become the hard coral that provides a coral reef’s structure. Algae live within these polyps that supply nutrients and lend vivid color to the corals. 

Once stressed, these coral polyps secrete the algae and turn white. This process is called coral bleaching. If this bleaching isn’t reversed, it may lead to the death of the coral. Strangely, warm waters cause mass bleaching all over the planet. Carbon pollution also causes oceans to become more acidic, making it more difficult for polyps to absorb the required calcium to develop hard coral. Ecologists are now working to save the coral reefs before it is too late. Today, there is a new state-of-the-art approach, and this is none other than 3D printing. 

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How does 3D printing work to save coral reefs?

As coral reefs face a crisis of colossal magnitude, innovation is the only option left. Scientists are more than aware of coral-related issues, and many researchers now use advanced technologies. 3D printing design companies can offer protection for countless animals depending on coral and combat their extinction at the same time. It is more than essential to protect coral reefs. Unfortunately, they are among the most threatened species despite harboring the highest biodiversity out of all the world’s ecosystems. 

Growing local pressures, unprecedented global warming, ocean acidification, and mass coral bleaching agents can all have drastic, adverse effects on coral reefs, threatening their survival. Coral reefs are also increasingly at risk of dealing with mass bleaching events with the continuous rise of global temperatures that may soon result in extinction. Technology is critically used to support the oceans’ coral reef populations. 3D rendering services is a modern technology that plays a role in coral reef conservation, and it uses different materials to produce physical objects from digital designs. 

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3D printing is continuously growing and has many uses and applications. Some good examples include building medical prosthetics, car and aircraft parts, and even human organs and tissue. Ocean conservationists and scientists are now discovering more about the 3D printing of artificial coral reefs helps with conservation efforts. 

Researchers initially had a hard time looking for ways to address ocean acidification or developing artificial coral reefs that could serve as a home to other species. Humans have created artificial reefs for centuries by dropping concrete blocks or sinking ships into shallow waters. These offered enough rock-life surfaces where corals could make a home, along with anemones, barnacles, algae, and other species. A 3D modeling design company can improve and simplify this process, producing reefs that mimic hard coral better. 

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Baby coral polyps are attracted to pink and white, which are the colors of healthy reefs. They also prefer grooves, holes, and crevices where they will stay protected from being eaten or trampled by predators. Modern-day 3D printers work to recreate such environments. There are also teams in Monaco and Bahrain that have produced pastel-colored sandstone reefs resembling the texture and shape of natural coral. The neutral pH of sandstone can make these artificial reefs an enticing destination for baby coral polyps. An upcoming model will have a porcelain coating resembling coral’s chemical makeup. 

Meanwhile, other designers followed a different approach, using artificial coral to address ocean acidification. The artist Nell Bennett, from London’s Royal College of Art, 3D printed an artificial coral consisting of calcium carbonate. The coral will dissolve little by little once placed in a reef, reducing the acidity levels of the surrounding waters. The Harbour Village Beach Club on the Caribbean island of Bonaire started using 3D printing techniques in 2016 to produce artificial corals.

This project was under the leadership of Fabien Cousteau, the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center’s founder and grandson of Jacques Cousteau, the renowned sea explorer. Artificial coral reefs are often made out of sandstone or lime, and one of their primary functions is to attract free-floating coral polyps. Coral polyps will then attach to the artificial reef, growing into full-fledged colonies and eventually creating a new living coral reef. Creating 3D-printed coral alternatives with a 3D sculpting design service is not as labor-intensive as other restoration methods.

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Other 3D printing used to prevent the extinction of species

Many companies in different industries are starting to establish ESG (environmental, social, and governance) practices to attract more consumers. Most of today’s consumers consider a company’s ESG practices when making purchasing decisions. Ecological considerations are one of the core ESG components for companies assessing business practices’ positive or adverse effects. The newest technologies, such as AI (artificial intelligence), renewables, and 3D printing, can guide companies to reach their ESG goals.

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Using 3D printing to create artificial coral is just one of the many examples of applications of this new technology. There are many other ways that 3D new concept design agencies can support animal species. For example, the rhino population is facing the severe issue of poaching, which may ultimately lead to the extinction of these animals. Rhino horns are valuable in the illegal wildlife trade, further worsening the poaching activity. 

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Pembient, a biotech startup, makes 3D-printed rhino horns to serve as a sustainable alternative. The company uses state-of-the-art technology to produce substances that resemble those found in natural rhino horns. The startup hopes to develop these artificial horns to end poaching and protect the dwindling rhino population. Safe pollination is also essential for bee populations that play a vital role in land ecosystems. Sadly, bee colonies are experiencing alarming fatality rates. 

A possible solution to help in preserving bee populations is to use 3D animation services to create 3D-printed flowers. Synthetic pollenizers have been developed to offer bees a safe pollination space to support conservation efforts. Some infant tortoises are also facing predators and habitat loss, and Hardshell Labs is a company that hopes to offer them protection by developing artificial decoys. Techno-Tortoise is a highly realistic baby tortoise model that attracts predators without posing a risk to these infants. 

Are there potential problems with 3D printing?

While 3D printing offers conservationists many helpful solutions, it is still essential to address some issues. 3D printing uses printers and plastics that may increase energy consumption. Some 3D-printed products are also understood to have short lives, which results in arguments about the technology not being the most eco-friendly option out there. 3D printing technology can also be complicated for those who lack specialized knowledge. In contrast, advocates refer to it as a disruptive technology that all industries haven’t adopted. 3D printing has a bright future in the development of wildlife conservation efforts. 

How Cad Crowd can assist

Our freelance 3D printing design services are part of the comprehensive suite of CAD services we offer clients of all stripes, shapes, and sizes. Our global network of design professionals includes 3D modelers, industrial designers, CAD drafters, and engineers. Our goal is to provide comprehensive product development services for inventors and entrepreneurs, and we offer a one-stop shop for all product development services. Contact us today for a free quote.