Prosthetic coral 3D printed by researchers at the University of Sydney could help save threatened corals.
“The idea behind that was to map, monitor and model the coral reefs and other marine ecosystems in three dimensions,” she said. “If you can create a 3D map, then you can measure it, because you literally have a map of the corals on your computer. You can get anything you want out of it.”
The technology is relatively new, based on photogrammetry: the science of making 3D reconstructions from photography. These virtual models are being used to print models of the coral that could be planted on the reef to give it support as it recovers from adverse events such as bleaching and storms.
The 3D-printed coral would provide a habitat for fish, which eat the algae that kills the coral, as well as a structure on which developing coral can grow.
Artificial reefs have been created with cinder blocks or deliberately sunk ships, said Ferrari, “but we’ve never had an artificial reef that resembles a natural reef structure”.