XtreeE and Seaboost Give the Sea a Boost with a 3D Printed Coral Reef

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[Image: Seaboost]

Right now is not a great time to be a coral reef. Warming ocean waters are causing bleaching, which is what happens when a coral’s symbiotic microalgae, which give the coral its bright color, die off, causing the coral itself to die. Those warmer temperatures allow for the proliferation of disease, too, and the rising amount of carbon dioxide is leading to acidification of the oceans, which dissolves coral and makes it harder for it to grow. Then there are problems that include overfishing, damaging fishing practices using cyanide and dynamite, pollution from sewage and agriculture, invasive species, and sedimentation from poor agricultural practices.

That’s only part of a long list of the threats against coral, but why are the reefs so important, you may wonder? There are a lot of reasons why protecting coral reefs is urgent. Most people understand that it would be a bad thing if the reefs all died, but not everyone realizes what a direct impact the loss of coral reefs would have on humans. For one thing, coral reefs protect coastlines from damaging waves and tropical storms. Without coral, there’s no buffer against erosion, floods, property damage and even loss of life. The fishing industry depends heavily on the presence of coral reefs, too, as many fish spawn there and juvenile fish spend time there before heading out to sea.

Far more than just humans would be affected by the loss of the reefs, however – they house some of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet, and many species rely on the reefs for their survival. If you’ve studied biology even a little bit, you’ll likely recall the ripple effect the loss of even one species has on an ecosystem, and the loss of the coral reefs would result in a staggering loss of life below the waves – and above them, too, as other creatures such as birds were deprived of major food sources.

That leads to the question: what’s to be done? Changing human behavior is crucial – taking steps to halt climate change, using less damaging fishing and agricultural practices, etc. But those things take time, and the coral reefs still need to be given a chance to recover, to catch up. Thankfully, we humans have the technology for that. In the waters off the coast of France’s Calanques National Park, a large chunk of 3D printed concrete has just been immersed. It’s not just any chunk of concrete; it’s been specially designed to mimic the structure of a coral reef, with the hope that it will attract fish and other marine life – and, most importantly, free-floating baby coral polyps. If these polyps embed themselves in the concrete and begin to grow, you have the beginnings of a new coral reef.

This particular concrete reef was designed by French marine conservation organization Seaboost and large-scale 3D printing company XtreeE. While neither organization has commented on the material the reef is made of, XtreeE describes it as a “biomimetic, porous” material, similar to coral itself.

The first 3D printed reef was sunk in the Persian Gulf in 2012. Since then, there have been several others, in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, Australia and elsewhere. Now it’s a game of wait and see what happens. The reefs are being monitored over the course of several years, and if they successfully attract life forms that build them into living reefs, we could see this kind of project being implemented on a large scale.

So much of the damage done to the environment has been caused by humans and our technology – but it could also be our technology that saves the environment, if we use it right. 3D printing new coral reefs is a great step in the right direction.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

Ames Laboratory Researchers Use 3D Printed Manifold in Advanced Magnetocaloric Cooling …

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The Ames Laboratory, a national laboratory with the US Department of Energy’s Office of Science and operated by Iowa State University, works to solve our world’s pressing issues with innovative energy materials, solutions, and technologies. While the laboratory spent a lot of time in 2017 focusing on its metal 3D printing powder technology and 3D printed chemically active catalytic objects, now researchers are taking a closer look at magnetocaloric cooling.

Scientists have been working to develop new technologies, such as solid-state systems with up to 30% more energy efficiency, to replace gas compression refrigeration technology that’s 100 years old. The magnetocaloric effect is a phenomenon in which a suitable material goes through a temperature change caused by exposure to a changing magnetic field.

Magnetic refrigeration, a cooling technology based on the magnetocaloric effect. [Image: Mtodorov 69, Wikimedia Commons]

Researchers at Ames Laboratory designed and built an advanced model system, with the help of 3D printing technology, that can successfully achieve refrigeration-level cooling using very small quantities of magnetocaloric materials.

The system is called CaloriSMART, or Small Modular Advanced Research-scale Test-station, and is a research thrust of CaloriCool – The Caloric Materials Consortium.

“Despite predictions we would fail because of anticipated inefficiencies and losses, we always believed it would work, but we were pleasantly surprised by just how well it worked,” said CaloriCool project director and Ames Laboratory scientist Vitalij Pecharsky. “It’s a remarkable system and it performs exceptionally well. Magnetic refrigeration near room temperature has been broadly researched for 20 years, but this is one of the best systems that has been developed.”

“But the main reason we conceived and built CaloriSMART is to accelerate design and development of caloric materials so they can be moved into the manufacturing space at least two to three times faster compared to the 20 or so years it typically takes today.”

Caloric cooling is a different way of looking at refrigeration technology, and is the science behind CaloriCool, which is sponsored by the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy through its Advanced Manufacturing Office. The research collaboration is led by the Ames Laboratory and was established as part of the Energy Materials Network.

The CaloriSMART system, which took about five months to build, was specifically developed to enable rapid evaluation of materials in regenerators (regenerative heat exchangers) without having to invest a lot of manufacturing or time.

The 3D printed manifold holding a gadolinium sample.

Pecharsky, also an Anston Marston Distinguished Professor in the university’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, credits project scientist Julie Slaughter and her team for the system’s design, which includes a custom 3D printed manifold that holds gadolinium samples and circulates the actual fluid that, according to the laboratory, “harnesses the system’s cooling power.”

“We only need 2-5 cubic centimeters of sample material – in most cases about 15-25 grams. We are setting the benchmark with gadolinium and we know there are other materials that will perform even better. And our system should be scalable (for commercial cooling) in the future,” Slaughter explained.

Gadolinium is a malleable and ductile rare earth metal, found in nature only in oxidized form. The first test of the CaloriSMART system administered a sample of three cubic centimeters of gadolinium to sequential magnetic fields, which caused it to switch back and forth between cooling down and heating up. During these cycles, the system used well-timed pumps to circulate water, which allowed it to demonstrate a sustained cooling power of 10 watts and a 15°C gradient between the hot and cold ends.

CaloriSMART System.

Customized neodymium-iron-boron magnets are also included in the CaloriSMART system, and are able to send a concentrated 1.4 Tesla magnetic field right to its circulating, precision in-line pumping system, and to the sample itself.

Now that CaloriSmart has achieved successful magnetocaloric testing, the research team plans to upgrade the system with electrocaloric materials, which reversibly heat up and cool down when subjected to a changing electric field, as well as elastocaloric materials, which behave in a similar fashion but when cyclic tension or compression is administered. The CaloriSmart system will even be able to operate in an innovative combined-field mode, which allows for the simultaneous use of a combination of techniques.

“There are a handful of places studying elastocaloric and electrocaloric materials, but nobody has all three in one place and our system now gives us that capability,” said Pecharsky.

3D printing technology has the ability to achieve unique, custom shapes at a faster rate of time, which is why we’ve often seen 3D printed manifolds put to work before in cars, vintage fire engines, and even ventilators. Now, we can add a magnetocaloric cooling system to the list.

Discuss this and other 3D topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Source/Images: Ames Laboratory]

Sleek 3D Printed Chairs From Zaha Hadid Architects to be Exhibited at Milan Design Week

At this year’s Milan design week, a new Spanish brand called Nagami will make its debut with four 3D printed chairs designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, Ross Lovegrove and Daniel Widrig. The collection is named Brave New World. 

Each year, thousands of people flock to Italy’s capital of fashion and design for Milan Design Week. The week-long celebration of innovative design is starting up again on April 17, and the new Spanish furniture brand Nagami has a collection that will put visitors on the edge of their seats.

Nagami’s first-ever collection, which will be on display at Milan Design Week, is a set of 3D printed chairs designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, Ross Lovegrove, and Daniel Widrig. The collection is called Brave New World, which is inspired by Aldous Huxley’s classic dystopian novel of the same title.

The prestigious firm Zaha Hadid Architects designed two chairs for the collection; the Bow and the Rise. These sleek and modern furnishings are inspired by marine biology.

The Rise designed by Zaha Hadid Architects

Ross Lovegrove designed a stool called Robotica TM, which focuses on similarities that exist between botany and robotics.

Ross Lovegrove’s Robotica TM stool

The last piece was designed by Daniel Widrig, who used three pieces of PLA to create his “skin-like” Peeler chair. His vision for this seat was to make the seven millimeter thick PLA pieces appear as if they are “peeling off of an invisible joint body.”


nagamiDaniel Widrig’s 3D printed Peeler chair

“We design products that until now were just waiting for the right technology to come to life: not only objects that you can hold, but also that you can feel and experience as part of your environment,” announced Nagami founders Manuel Jimenez García, Miki Jimenez García, and Ignacio Viguera Ochoa.

Visiting Milan? Sit Down on the Bow and Rise, Robotica TM, or Peeler Chairs

Although the entire collection is made with 3D printing technology, the four different chairs are all made using different materials and techniques.

For example, the Bow and Rise chairs include bright colors because the designer was influenced by underwater ecosystems. The two aquatically-inspired chairs are produced with PLA, but instead of 3D printing with filament, the team opted to use a pellet extruder and raw plastic particles.


nagamiThe Bow designed by Zaha Hadid Architects

For the Robotica TM stool, Ross Lovegrove draws comparisons between 3D printing and “natural programming” found throughout nature. To create the stool, he used a continuous rotational process, which fuses together each layer in the midst of the printing process. The stool includes heat-proof silicone inserts, making it ideal for use as a table.

The most simplistic of the four chair designs is Widrig’s Peeler chair. It takes just a few hours to achieve the desired effect of three peeling pieces of PLA. In fact, the designer intended for the chair to be produced in a short amount of time with as little material as possible.

“The chair has been designed to satisfy both the ergonomic constraints of the human body, as well as the ergonomics of the robotic arm that prints it,” said Widrig.

Want to check out the work for yourself? Visit Milan’s Brera Design District where Nagami will be exhibiting the chairs at their pop-up showroom. Or, if you can’t make it out to the Lombardy region for the event, check out the furniture company’s website to learn more about the Brave New World collection.

Source: Dezeen 

License: The text of “Sleek 3D Printed Chairs From Zaha Hadid Architects to be Exhibited at Milan Design Week” by All3DP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Why 3D printed building is more than a fad

A 3D Printed Home by Icon. The home is a single storey, 650-square-foot house, made out of cement in only 12 to 24 hours, and it was unveiled at SXSW.

We all have an idea of what’s involved in building a house: great expense, a lengthy design process and an even lengthier construction process involving men wearing yellow safety helmets. But this scenario is being upended by the use of 3D printing techniques.

On building sites of the future, the traditional laying of bricks and mortar may be replaced by automated piping of layers of concrete, programmed with precision from the original architectural designs. This is no different from the process that takes place inside a desktop 3D printer – it just uses different materials, and it’s a great deal bigger.

The latest example has just been unveiled by the construction technology company, Icon, at the South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas – a 650 square foot, one bedroom house, printed in less than a day for under $10,000.

‘Solving homelessness’

With a global housing crisis that will, if unchecked, force about 1.6 billion people into inadequate shelter by 2025, 3D printing offers a glimpse of a solution – not least because the houses unveiled in Austin are pleasant to look at. Unlike cheaply built homes of the past, these are buildings you might actually want to live in.

Solving homelessness is a lofty ambition for a technology that most people associate with small-scale thermoplastic gizmos such as pen holders or doorstops. But 3D printing has made quiet, but significant inroads into many industries, including clothing, aviation and medicine.

The breakthroughs being made in the construction industry have raised eyebrows because of their scale. From the first printed house in Shanghai almost four years ago, to the Office Of The Future constructed at the foot of the Emirates Towers in Dubai in 2016, each announcement is met with collective amazement that construction on that scale could be automated.

The unique building on the Emirates Towers premises will house the temporary office of the Dubai Future Foundation. Wam Sheikh Mohamnmed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, opened the Office of the Future in a 3D printed building in 2016. A 3D printed villa is planned. Wam

“Getting [3D printing] machines of that size is difficult, so flexible robots play a big role,” says Guglielmo Carra from engineering company Arup. It pioneered experiments with printing building elements in metal.

‘Robots don’t need to go home at the end of the day’

“But it’s important to prove that new technologies can work on a large scale,” he says. “You need to think about how a wall can cope with wind, or seismic activity. It also helps with public acceptance of these experiments because if people see a small-scale prototype, they then say ‘OK, but now what?’”

Moving from prototype designs to actual buildings is something that 3D printing handles effortlessly. It is a simple scaling up process that can be done with total precision. That precision brings with it a raft of additional benefits, says Carra. “Reducing mistakes means reducing costs, optimising use of materials and improving sustainability,” he says. “It also has huge scope in terms of freedom of shape. We’ve created very complex shapes in metal that you couldn’t make in any other way, and which have added huge value in terms of the performance of the building.”

The skill and speed with which robots are able to “print” materials, be it using concrete, metal, sand or plastic, puts them up in competition with construction workers – because they don’t need to go home at the end of the day, and you don’t need to pay them.

800 million workers to lose their jobs to robotic technology

A recent report from the McKinsey Consultancy estimates that 800 million workers will lose their jobs to robotic technology by 2030, and the construction industry will undoubtedly make a contribution. But humans will still be needed on construction sites.

“Workers are not going to be left out of construction sites,” says Carra. “Robots can undertake the difficult operations and free up humans to do the less risky work. Also, not all buildings will be 3D printed. Yes, there may be a requirement for it if a building needs to be constructed quickly, or if complex shapes are needed. But 3D printing just offers more choice and more freedom to pick the best process for that specific project.”

The issue of building codes

It’s been two years since UAE Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, announced a plan to base a quarter of Dubai’s buildings on 3D printing technology by 2030, and the first 3D printed villa is due to be unveiled imminently.

More widespread use of the technique across the world, however, may initially be held back by building codes and regulations that lag behind technological change – after all, most countries don’t allow you to just erect a building however you want.

Last September saw the “Bod” (Building On Demand) put up in Copenhagen, the first to comply with EU building regulations, and Carra believes that the rule books will change as the technology consolidates. “Some building codes don’t specifically allow the use of 3D printing,” he says. “But that doesn’t mean that you can’t do it. It does mean, however, that you have to go through a longer approval process.”

El Salvador is one country that is offering its approval. Icon has announced that it has partnered with a homelessness charity, New Story, to construct a development of 100 of its 3D printed homes there next year.

By that point Icon hopes to have brought the unit cost of each house down to just $4,000. It almost seems too good to be true but of course rolling out new technology at such a scale is not without its problems.

3D Printed Home by Icon which describes itself as "a construction technologies company dedicated to revolutionising homebuilding". Icon is based in Austin, Texas and it was unveiled at SXSW. The home is a single storey, 650-square-foot house, made out of cement in only 12 to 24 hours. Icon’s 3D printed building looks, truly, like a home.

“The issue of scale is one that still needs to be proved feasible,” says Carra. “And of course the technology relies on robots, which requires initial capital investment, so the economics have to be proved feasible, too.”

What is not in question is the agility of the process and the aesthetic merit of the results. “It might sound like a less relevant problem in relation to the housing crisis,” says Carra, “but this is an opportunity to bring better looking housing to certain parts of the world. Nicer environments, nicer neighbourhoods, with buildings that don’t have to look identical and can have variation without incurring extra costs.”

We already know that attractive surroundings are conducive to our well being. What we are now learning is that 3D printed buildings could, at least in theory, improve the quality of life of thousands if not millions of people.


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