Summer Island Maldives installs world’s largest 3D-printed reef system

Summer Island Maldives on Saturday installed world’s largest 3D-printed reef system, in an effort to help protect coral reefs in the face of rising ocean temperatures caused by climate change.

In a first for the Maldives, the artificial reef, created with ceramic and concrete modules, was submerged in seven metres of water in the ‘Blue Lagoon’ part of Summer Island’s house reef, located at the end of the arrivals jetty. Fragments of coral from the resort’s existing coral nursery are being transplanted onto the 3D reef, where they will grow and colonise the structure.

Summer Island and its dive school operator Diverland Maldives partnered with designers from Reef Design Lab in Australia to implement the project, which is designed to encourage corals to grow in sandy parts of the lagoon.

The project started in a lab in Melbourne, where industrial designer Alex Goad used sophisticated computing modelling to design reef structures similar to the coral reefs found naturally in the Maldives. A large 3D printer was used to print moulds of the reef structures. Concrete was poured into ceramic moulds to make dozens of small, modular reef structures. These 220 structures were slotted and stuck together to make the new reef, like a giant LEGO set.

“This is a science project, it’s a research project,” Alex said, during a presentation about the project Saturday morning. “3D printing technology helps us to mimic the complexity of natural reef structures, so we can design artificial reefs that closely resemble those found in nature.”

Alex plans to make his modular 3D designs open source in order to allow other researchers in the Maldives to conduct similar projects.

Coral reefs across the world are under threat. Coral bleaching in the Maldives was first reported in 2015, but most areas rebounded quickly. As the unusual weather patterns associated with an El Niño event persisted throughout 2015 and worsened in 2016, reefs bleached again.

The new reef ecosystem is Summer Island’s latest initiative to protect the environment.

As part of the decision made to mark 2018 World Oceans Day on June 8, the resort discontinued the use of single-use plastic drinking straws.

In 2015, Summer Island introduced glass bottles to phase out single use plastic water bottles. Guests are now offered bottled water in reusable glass bottles, and the water is produced at the island’s own drinking water facility. Summer Island uses solar power to produce hot water and will continue to use renewable energy for the island.

Summer Island, a four-star resort located in North Male Atoll, is one of the country’s first resorts, and remains wholly Maldivian owned. It was recently refurbished, and now boasts fresh and zesty rooms, award-winning restaurants, a rustic beach bar, a dive school, and a spa offering a range of wellness treatments and massages.

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