Coral reefs are incredibly complex, one-of-a-kind creations. Unfortunately, we are also destroying them at an alarming rate. Fortunately, a joint Australian/Bahraini team is working to 3D print replacement reef units. The team is made up of Sustainable Oceans International (SOI), an Australian reef design consultancy, architect James Gardiner, and Reef Arabia, a reef construction company in the Arabian Gulf.
In 2010, James Gardiner won an award from SOI for his conceptual project that used a construction-sized 3D printer to create replacement reef units. Now, the company has partnered with Gardiner to design, print, and ship the first prototypes, two of which have been purchased by Reef Arabia. The prototypes are 1 meter tall the weight 300 kg each. In Bahrain, the first prototypes will be placed among 270 standard concrete artificial reef units, to test the effectiveness of the design.
The 3D printed reefs have several advantages over traditional concrete-poured replacement reef units, namely that they can replicate the complex internal caves and connections of a real reef, and have specific features added to appeal to certain kinds of marine species.