From Concrete to Coral: New Zealand to Boost Marine Life with 3D Printed Barnacles


Share this Article

Our oceans face many environmental challenges today. Rising sea levels, declining water quality, decreasing marine biodiversity, and vanishing coral reefs threaten the well-being of our seas. In response, some organizations are putting the planet’s needs first. One such group is Eke Panuku, a government agency responsible for urban regeneration under Auckland Council in New Zealand. Their latest project involves using 3D concrete printing to create artificial barnacles that enhance biodiversity.

These 3D printed barnacles mimic real barnacles, which are small sea creatures that stick to surfaces like rocks, boats, and even other animals. Their hard shells protect their soft bodies inside, and they feed by waving tiny legs (called cirri) in the water to catch food like plankton. Barnacles boost biodiversity and provide a vital food source for other marine animals.

3D printed Barnacles in New Zealand. Image courtesy of QOROX.

Eke Panuku’s focus on innovative solutions extends beyond marine projects. The agency plays a crucial role in transforming urban spaces in Auckland by managing an NZ$ 3 billion ($1.8 billion) portfolio of land and buildings owned by the Auckland Council. The agency acts as a catalyst for smart partnerships, collaborating with the community, local boards, the private sector, and other government agencies. With projects ranging from refreshing single sites or buildings to major transformations of town centers and neighborhoods, the goal is to create sustainable and well-planned communities throughout Auckland.

As part of its track record of regeneration projects that seek to repair the land and remove toxins, Eke Panuku’s’ latest endeavor, artificial barnacles, provides a novel solution to marine conservation. Created in collaboration with QOROX, the first construction company to introduce 3D concrete printing to New Zealand in 2018, these 3D printed structures mimic natural rock pools. More importantly, when placed in the water, they provide microhabitats for various sea creatures.

Traditional marine modules are often identical in shape and size, but thanks to 3D printing, designers can create customized designs that better serve the needs of marine life.

“Normally, these marine modules are not purpose-built; they have a standard form,” explains Fiona Knox, Priority Location Director at Eke Panuku. “However, we needed them to be a unique size and shape, so we sought the help of 3D printing specialists QOROX.”

3D printed Barnacles in New Zealand. Image courtesy of QOROX.

Not only does 3D concrete printing allow for more freedom in their design, but the material also helps oceanic flora thrive. The result is a source of food and shelter for marine life, one that is very much needed given that overfishing and habitat destruction has led to a 90% decrease in some fish populations and the loss of vital marine habitats like coral reefs and seagrass beds, which provide crucial breeding grounds and food sources for many species. Studies have shown that artificial reefs can increase marine biodiversity by up to 400% compared to barren seabeds.

This new project has an additional benefit: the capability of 3D printing to build more affordable, faster, and more sustainable structures. 3D concrete printing has many advantages over traditional construction methods, from design flexibility to allowing the creation of structures tailored to specific environmental needs. These benefits make it an ideal choice for projects like the artificial barnacles. The team already printed 11 barnacles, with an average print time of 5 minutes each.

QOROX used advanced 3D printing technology from CyBe Construction to create the artificial barnacles. A Dutch company, CyBe, has developed hardware, software, building materials, and learning platforms to become a one-stop shop for concrete 3D printing. It has been in the industry for over ten years, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible in construction with technology that allows for faster, more sustainable building processes.

QOROX, based in Hamilton, New Zealand, is not the first company to undertake a marine project. The company previously created artificial reefs that function similarly to the new barnacles and were designed to attract marine life by incorporating seashells into the structures.

3D printed Barnacles displayed at the pier in New Zealand. Image courtesy of QOROX.

Exploring the use of 3D printing for marine projects isn’t new territory for QOROX. Based in Hamilton, New Zealand, the company has previously created artificial reefs designed to attract marine life by incorporating seashells into the structures. These reefs function similarly to the new barnacles and prove the potential of 3D printing to aid marine habitats.

Other global initiatives also leveraged 3D printing to protect marine ecosystems. For instance, Ørsted, a Danish company known for being the world’s largest developer of offshore wind power,  and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF Denmark) have deployed 3D printed reef structures between wind turbines in Denmark’s’ Kattegat, aiming to restore fish populations and improve marine biodiversity. In the Maldives, the Maldives Coral Institute uses 3D printing to create artificial coral structures that help damaged reefs recover faster. These, and many more projects in the works, are crucial to overcoming our oceans’ environmental challenges. They are also great examples of how technology and sustainability can work together to create a future where innovative solutions protect our planet.

Share this Article

Recent News

OCEAN 3D Printer from Azul3D Prints at 300 mm per Hour

3D Printing News Unpeeled: Holography in Space & Fyous Reusable Molds


3D Design

3D Printed Art

3D Printed Food

3D Printed Guns

You May Also Like

Why Do We Have to Pretend We’re Going to 3D Print Homes on Mars?

Maybe someday we’ll 3D print houses on Mars. But how much effort and time would it take to get there? And, is it even a good goal? Recently, at AI...

UW-Madison Engineers 3D Print RAM Devices in Zero Gravity with NASA Funding

Engineers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) 3D printed RAM (Random Access Memory) device units in zero gravity to show that electronic components can be produced in space. This capability...

3D Printing Financials: Protolabs’ Q1 3D Printing Revenue is Flat, Company Advances in Technology Push

Protolabs (NYSE: PRLB) has kicked off 2024 with a mild boost in revenue, revealing how the Minnesota-based company manages to adapt and thrive even in uncertain market conditions. While the...

NASA Backs Project for 3D Printing Space Sensors

NASA granted $300,000 to Florida State University (FSU) and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) to pioneer a project using 3D printing to develop cutting-edge sensors capable of withstanding the...