3D printing to save coral reefs

Many marine species are currently threatened and some are threatened with extinction. This includes coral reefs, so it is imperative to ensure that coral reefs survive.

The ocean covers most of the planet’s surface and is home to countless marine species. Ensuring the survival of marine life, whether microscopic bacteria or blue whales, is essential to maintaining a balanced ecosystem.

The protection of coral reefs is essential. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), coral reefs are home to the greatest biodiversity of any ecosystem, but they are also the most threatened.

Scientists and many researchers are using advanced technologies such as 3D printing to fight coral reef extinction.

Massive coral bleaching events, ocean acidification, unprecedented global warming and increasing local pressures are negatively affecting coral reefs and threatening their survival.

Coral reefs are becoming increasingly vulnerable to mass bleaching events as global temperatures continue to rise, ultimately leading to extinction.

Although reefs cover only 0.1% of the ocean floor, they are home to more than a quarter of all fish species, provide protection from flooding, provide subsistence food and support fishing industries. fishing and tourism.

Coral reefs also add value to the US economy, and an independent study found they provide $483 million in net benefits annually.


3D printing solutions to help reefs

Technology plays an important role in maintaining coral reefs in the oceans. One technology making its way into conservation is 3D printing, which uses various materials to create physical objects from a digital design.

3D printing is a growing field and has many applications and use cases. Some examples include the construction of aircraft and automobile parts, medical prostheses, and even human tissues and organs. Ocean scientists and conservationists are now discovering that 3D-printed artificial coral reefs can aid conservation efforts.

The Harbor Village Beach Club on the Caribbean island of Bonaire began using 3D printing techniques to produce artificial corals in 2016. The project was led by Fabien Cousteau, grandson of famed marine explorer Jacques Cousteau and founder of the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center.

Artificial coral reefs are usually made of lime or sandstone, and one of their main purposes is to attract free-floating coral polyps. Coral polyps attach to artificial corals and grow into full colonies, ultimately creating a whole new living coral reef.

Creating 3D printed coral alternatives is less labor intensive than other restoration methods.

Other uses of 3D printing to fight species extinction

More and more companies in various sectors are trying to establish environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices to attract more consumers. According to PwC, 83% of consumers want companies to develop ESG practices because these can affect buying decisions.

An essential component of ESG considers the environment and how business practices affect it positively or negatively. The latest technologies, such as renewable energy, artificial intelligence (AI) or even 3D printing, can help companies achieve their ESG objectives.

3D printing for the creation of artificial corals is just one example of a use case. 3D printing is applied in other ways to help animal species.

Poaching is a serious problem facing rhino populations and could ultimately lead to their extinction. Rhino horns are valuable in the illegal wildlife trade, fueling poaching activities. A biotech startup, Pembient, is producing 3D-printed rhino horns as a sustainable alternative.

Pembient uses state-of-the-art technology to create substances similar to natural rhino horn. The company hopes to produce these artificial horns to stop poaching and protect rhino populations.

Safe pollination is crucial for bee populations, which play a vital role in the ecosystem. Colonies are dying at an alarming rate.

One solution that can help preserve bee populations is 3D printed flowers. In Brisbane, Michael Candy has created a synthetic pollinator to provide a safe space for bees to pollinate, supporting conservation efforts.

Many baby turtles are coping with habitat loss and predators. Hardshell Labs is a company that hopes to protect them by creating artificial lures.

The “Techno Turtle” is a very realistic model of a baby turtle that attracts predators without endangering the babies.

Possible problems with 3D printing

3D printing can offer many solutions for conservationists, but some problems need to be solved.

3D printing relies on plastics and printers, which increase energy consumption. In addition, it is understood that some 3D printed products have a short lifespan. For these reasons, it is claimed that it is not the greenest technology.

3D printing technology is quite complex for people without specialist knowledge. Some proponents have called it a “disruptive” technology, but not all industries have embraced it.

Either way, 3D printing has a bright future, especially in wildlife conservation efforts. It will be interesting to see how this can help animal species thrive and fight extinction.

Until 3D printing is more widely adopted, it cannot be used by conservationists or scientists seeking to protect species of marine or terrestrial animals. However, other technologies are likely to play an increasing role in protecting animal species, so more use cases are expected to emerge.

By April Miller. Articles in English

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