Above: A Tasmanian Blennie takes shelter in one of our 3D printed habitat panels. Photo: Alex Goad 

Above: A Tasmanian Blennie takes shelter in one of our 3D printed habitat panels. Photo: Alex Goad 

3D Printed Habitat Engineering for Seawalls

Reef Design Lab has been developing 3D printed habitat designs for seawalls since 2014. Seawalls are an ever present structure in our intertidal environments and are very rarely designed in a way that provides shelter for native animals. Normally a seawall is completely flat and devoid of crevices minimising the potential for colonising organisms. Through RDL's research partnerships we have been looking into how we can design seawalls to maximise the colonisation of native species leading to greater biodiversity.   

We computer model, 3D print and mould the designs in marine concrete. 

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Partnership with SIMS:

RDL has been in partnership with SIMS since 2015. SIMS is a world leader in habitat engineering research and initiated the World Harbour Project which brings researchers from around the world together to collaborate and share results. Reef Design Lab and SIMS are currently working on the worlds largest 3D printed seawall research project which will see over 500 habitat panels installed in Sydney Harbour. The research will provide answers on how we can design marine infrastructure in the future to maximise benefits for marine species. 

RDL x Volvo: 

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RDL & SIMS teamed up with Volvo to design a special 3D printed concrete habitat panel for World Ocean Day 2018.  The panel will become part of SIMS's research and will be added to the 500 panels installed later this year. 

The panel included the addition of recycled plastic fibres to help strengthen the panel. The fibres roughly 1mm x 60mm make up only 0.5% of the panel and are infused in the concrete meaning they do not make contact with the marine environment.  These fibres are currently being used in multiple marine infrastructure applications around the world as they control micro cracking in the concrete leading to increased lifespan. However, we use this material with vigilance and will be continually inspecting the panels over the coming years. If a panel is damaged and there is a risk that the fibre could make contact with the waterway that panel will be removed. 

Partnering with companies like Volvo is absolutely essential to help fund and further the research in this field and we thank them immensely for partnering with us on this initiative.

Find out more on the Living Seawall Project here:

Volvo x RDL x SIMS Living Seawall

 Above: Oyster colonisation rates on a flat concrete seawall compared to a 3D printed seawall. Image courtesy of SIMS 

Above: Oyster colonisation rates on a flat concrete seawall compared to a 3D printed seawall. Image courtesy of SIMS 

 Above: 3D printed habitat tiles used in the World Harbour Project. Photo: Alex Goad 

Above: 3D printed habitat tiles used in the World Harbour Project. Photo: Alex Goad 

 Above: Habitat tile after a year of growth is being analysed at SIMS. Photo: Alex Goad 

Above: Habitat tile after a year of growth is being analysed at SIMS. Photo: Alex Goad