3D Printing of coastal protection Reefs

This innovation mitigates Coastal Floods and is focused on the Albanian Coastline using industrial 3D printing technology. Using a large scale robotic arm so-called Reef Ball protective elements are 3D printed in stone like material (mixture of sand, cement and water as the binder) in layer like configurations. Using this technology would allow to print full scale protective barrier reefs to be deployed in different coastal areas in Albania with erosion risks. The innovation it is not a fixed structure, but has mobile components.
Technology validated in lab.
Basic technological components are integrated to establish that they will work together. This is relatively “low fidelity” compared with the eventual system. Examples include integration of “ad hoc” hardware in the laboratory.
Smaller scale prototypes of the reef balls have been constructed through smaller scale 3D printers and a CNC machine. These prototypes are constructed from polylactic acid (PLA) and tested in laboratory. The presence of a robotic arm would allow the jump to the real scale and adequate material testing. Even though our laboratories miss the robotic arm, the staff of our laboratory has previous experience in large scale digital prefabrication thank to the collaboration with partner universities and research centers.

How does it work?

Using a 3D Printer and digital tools for the Reef Ball elements to protect the coastline not only allows for fast prototyping but also for easily changeable and unique components to each coastline. The innovation is a ‘green based’ solution, as the proposed stone-like concrete is 90% recyclable and can be obtained by recycling other already built systems. The Reef Balls themselves provide a habitat for flora and fauna of the sea to inhabit the structures and enrich the underwater life. Finally, the possibility to model the structures in different ways and even turning those structures to works of arts and sculpting could encourage future underwater tourism.

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