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.

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Chinese market regulators propose guidance for 3D printed medical devices

The China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) has published new guidance into the registration requirements for 3D printed medical devices.

The draft guidance is intended to address industry questions into how the CFDA will approach the regulation for 3D-printed medical devices on the Chinese market.

The guidance covers 3D-printed implantable devices for orthopaedic and dental applications; biomaterials and pharmaceuticals produced using additive manufacturing.

The CFDA will also require validation testing for 3D printing manufacturing equipment and processes, as well as materials, software and final products.

Other key proposals of the guidance include environmental parameters which should include temperature, pressure, humidity, gas composition, printing speed, energy density and related factors.

The guidance also proposes that Product validations should include usability tests, that clinicians and healthcare professionals be involved in the design of 3D printed devices and that the use of 3D-printed medical implants should involve contracts between patients, manufacturers and healthcare providers.

It also states that additive manufacturers must conduct cleaning processes which may not be outsourced given the complexity of 3D printed medical devices.

The CFDA is awaiting comments from the industry and is aiming to issue a final version of the guidance to address the 3D printing sector.

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Girl Guides Use Technology Skills to Help Special Needs Community with 3D Printed Park Model

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The Sharjah Girl Guides were first established in 1973, and spread across the United Arab Emirates in the following years, leading to the establishment of the Girl Guides Association of the United Arab Emirates in 1979. The organization allows girls to develop as strong citizens and leaders, much like the Girl Scouts of America. As part of their own growth, the Girl Guides often end up helping others along the way, too. Such was the case with a recent project that demonstrated the girls’ impressive knowledge of technology as well as their commitment to making life better for others.

February has been designated as UAE Innovation Month, which grew out of Innovation Week in previous years. It was developed as a festival celebrating innovation across the UAE and aiming to strengthen the country’s position as a global innovation hub. Events include the launch of new national initiatives, showcases of products and services, hackathons and competitions, labs and workshops, and more across each of the Emirates. As part of Innovation Month, the Sharjah Girl Guides presented an innovation of their own.

Fifteen Girl Guides, aged 12 to 15, recently created a 3D printed model of a park that could be used by individuals with disabilities and special needs. It was the second of two projects for Sharjah’s own Innovation Week; the other involved a 3D printed book about iconic landmarks in Sharjah. The model of the park helped the girls develop their own CAD and 3D printing skills, as well as showing them how their work could help others in the community.

“Sharjah Innovation Week provided the perfect opportunity for the guides to not only challenge themselves in a technical environment but also required them to innovate in ways that could give back to the community,� said Shaikha Al Shamsi, Manager of the Sharjah Girl Guides. “The park model for children with special needs showed the guides’ skills in the design elements of the project and their understanding of how to accommodate children of various abilities and needs, and how to make their lifestyles more enjoyable and their leisure time more accessible.�

The park model and book were completed in six sessions, each of which took approximately three hours to complete the two projects. The park, while still in a concept stage, has the potential to be turned into an actual park at some point. The book, meanwhile, was created to educate both guests and visitors on Sharjah.

The Sharjah Girl Guides have often showed that they value technology, with other past activities including a 3Doodler workshop. Projects like this latest are a great example of the importance that organizations like the Girl Guides have in the lives of young girls, teaching them about the impact of technology as well as their own abilities to use it for good purpose. If the park does eventually get built, these girls will have become architects at a young age, and even if it remains simply a model, they will have learned valuable lessons about 3D design and 3D printing that they can take with them into the future – perhaps using them to directly impact the special needs community in another way.

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[Sources: Tahawul Tech, Gulf Today / Images: Sharjah Girl Guides]