AMT-Specavia, a Russian company specializing in construction 3D printing technologies, is partnering with a team in South Korea with the aim of producing artificial coral reefs for the Yellow Sea. The 3D printing effort, which it utilizing high-strength hydrophobic concrete to create the artificial coral, aims to rehabilitate the quickly deteriorating coral reef ecosystem in the Yellow Sea.
The Yellow Sea, which lies between mainland China and the Korean Peninsula, is perhaps most notable for its golden yellow colour, which is caused by sand particles from Gobi Desert sand storms. However, below the surface of the golden water, something more sinister is at play. Pollution caused by human activity is destroying coral ecosystems and the sea’s marine flora has suffered substantially.
Recently, the government of the Republic of Korea launched an initiative aimed at curbing this environmental disaster by improving underwater habitats for local fauna and flora. Part of this effort involves 3D printing artificial coral reef structures and installing them in coastal waters to provide shelter for fish colonies that traditionally rely on natural coral to survive.
Additive manufacturing seemed like the obvious choice to Dongsan Concrete Industry Co. Ltd., one of the project members, as the process allows for the creation of biomimetic, complex geometries. More traditional concrete manufacturing technologies, on the other hand, would be far too expensive and time consuming to work with for such a project.
The next step was to find a suitable construction 3D printing process for the task at hand. AMT-Specavia became involved in the project last year, after representatives from the South Korean enterprise visited Yaroslavl, Russia to see the company’s technology. After the meeting, a supply contract was signed. Since then, a construction 3D printer was delivered to South Korea along with a training team to teach the South Korean partners how to operate the technology.
The concrete 3D printer deployed by AMT-Specavia for the coral reef project is the S-6044 Long 2, which boasts a build volume of 7.5 x 7.4 x 2.7 meters (over 55 square meters). The printer itself is compatible with a range of materials, including geopolymer concrete, gypsum, clay and specialized mortars.
For the project in question, the extrusion-based 3D printer is creating artificial coral structures from a high-strength hydrophobic concrete material, which will remain durable in the coastal, underwater environment.
This is not the first 3D printing coral effort we’ve seen. In fact, 3D printing coral is becoming something of an environmental trend. Last August, for instance, Melbourne’s Reef Design Lab and Summer Island Maldives installed the largest 3D printed artificial coral structure in the Maldives to preserve the aquatic ecosystem. Emerging Objects and Boston Ceramics, for their part, have used 3D printing to create settlement substrates aimed at meeting the needs of coral larvae to promote propagation.