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3D printed artificial reefs to restore coral ecosystems

    © Artificial reef
© Artificial reef

Unlike many companies that work in the 3D printing industry like XtreeE, they work under and above water; for example, they create artificial reefs and underwater installations from 3d printed concrete.

    © 3D printed reef, Monaco
© 3D printed reef, Monaco

XtreeE is a startup created at the end of 2015 that pioneered large-scale additive manufacturing in concrete. The concept was inspired by the “Democritus”, a university project involving large-scale additive manufacturing.

    © ABB Robotics
© ABB Robotics

ABB Robotics, LafargeHolcim and Dassault Systems are XtreeE’s partners, supporting them in the 3DExperienceLab and offering them unique access to their software tools. Their team includes a diverse set of interests and skills, including architecture, civil engineering, mechanical engineering, computer science, materials science, management, and more.

Krypton, a column in Aix-en-Provence © Photos: Lisa Ricciotti
Krypton, a column in Aix-en-Provence © Photos: Lisa Ricciotti

XtreeE collaborates with recognized companies such as Eurovia, Point P Travaux Publics, Saint-Gobain (for consultation) and Zaha Hadid Architects. Additionally, XtreeE was the first in Europe to build a structural pillar using 3D printing in a public place.

Learn more about What is 3D concrete printing?

    © X-Reef, in the Calanques National Park
© X-Reef, in the Calanques National Park

In their projects, XtreeE builds waste molds mainly with concrete (used in 90% of cases), but also with clay on occasion: they pour concrete into the mold, then dissolve it with water. The closest analogue to XtreeE’s 3D technology would be fusion deposition modeling (FDM), in which the substance flows through a printing nozzle in liquid form before solidifying.

5 reefs in Monaco

This reef system is designed to attract a specific animal species: the grouper. During the establishment of the Posidonia herbarium species, its presence was necessary to guarantee the ecological balance. Parametric design has produced a family of morphologies that are all consistent with reef habitability.

XtreeE
© 5 reefs in Monaco

X-Reef, in the Calanques National Park

Seaboost and XtreeE have designed, manufactured and submerged this next-generation reef using their unique expertise in ecological engineering and large-scale 3D printing. In a global context of deteriorating marine environment, 3D concrete printing offers endless possibilities for future ecological restoration initiatives ranging from the Mediterranean seas to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

XtreeE
X-Reef, in the Calanques National Park

The sizes, shapes and textures of the cavities have been adjusted in partnership with biologists to improve the reproduction and population of the targeted underwater species. This first prototype was immersed in the Calanques natural park in France in 2017.

XtreeE
X-Reef, in the Calanques National Park © Photo: AFP/Boris Horvat

Artificial reef for Prince Albert II

In honor of the first oceanographer Albert Falco, fellow traveler of Commander Cousteau, Prince Albert II of Monaco urged his friend Pierre Frolla, quadruple diving world record holder and fervent defender of biodiversity in Monaco, to consider immersion of an artificial reef.

XtreeE
Artificial reef for Prince Albert II © Photos: Greg Lecoeur

XtreeE collaborated with marine engineers from SETEC to build a reef suitable for the local marine fauna based on hand sketches and drawings by Pierre Frolla.

32 biomimetic reefs in Cap d’Agde

The goal of these reefs is to enhance underwater biodiversity by building sustainable structures with a high degree of variety. This time, they are anchor bodies, mainly tires filled with concrete, which are supposed to combine habitat and anchor function. Each cavity has its own size and characteristics, adapted to each family of plant or animal species.

XtreeE
32 biomimetic reefs at Cap d’Agd e © Photos: Renaud Dupuy de la Granddrive

This project takes full advantage of the ability of printing technology to support very high geometric complexity at a reasonable cost. Additionally, chemical resistant textured concrete is an excellent material for this type of application.

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