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3D Printing of coastal protection Reefs

The Albanian coastline has been declining in recent years due to coastal erosion and uncontrolled...

3D Printing of coastal protection Reefs

The Albanian coastline has been declining in recent years due to coastal erosion and uncontrolled pier built in order to protect one area over another. Coastal erosion and losing land to the sea its slowly causing more and more coastal floods. Currently, as there are no real prevention systems to coastal floods and erosion, the Albanian coastline has been declining everywhere, loosing land and affecting coastal populations through coastal floods. Latest studies show that from 427 km of Albanian shoreline, almost 154 km have been eroded or are in danger of erosion. Erosion is one of the biggest threats that the Albanian coastline is facing and especially Seman has been affected by it.

Developed by POLIS University
This innovation mitigates Coastal Floods and is focused on the Albanian Coastline using industrial 3D printing technology. Using a large scale robotic arm so-called Reef Ball protective elements are 3D printed in stone like material (mixture of sand, cement and water as the binder) in layer like configurations. Using this technology would allow to print full scale protective barrier reefs to be deployed in different coastal areas in Albania with erosion risks. The innovation it is not a fixed structure, but has mobile components.

TRL4. Laboratory testing of prototype component or process
Technology validated in lab. Basic technological components are integrated to establish that they will work together. This is relatively “low fidelity” compared with the eventual system.
Examples include integration of “ad hoc” hardware in the laboratory.
Smaller scale prototypes of the reef balls have been constructed through smaller scale 3D printers and a CNC machine. These prototypes are constructed from polylactic acid (PLA) and tested in laboratory. The presence of a robotic arm would allow the jump to the real scale and adequate material testing. Even though our laboratories miss the robotic arm, the staff of our laboratory has previous experience in large scale digital prefabrication thank to the collaboration with partner universities and research centers.

See more information about this level and the TRL and SRL levels.

The main components of the system have been tested separately, and an initial integration exercise has been conducted.

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Collaborators

How does it work?

Using a 3D Printer and digital tools for the Reef Ball elements to protect the coastline not only allows for fast prototyping but also for easily changeable and unique components to each coastline. The innovation is a ‘green based’ solution, as the proposed stone-like concrete is 90% recyclable and can be obtained by recycling other already built systems. The Reef Balls themselves provide a habitat for flora and fauna of the sea to inhabit the structures and enrich the underwater life. Finally, the possibility to model the structures in different ways and even turning those structures to works of arts and sculpting could encourage future underwater tourism.

Limitations/conditions under which this innovation does not work or is less effective

Although it is hard to precisely predict the effectiveness of the reef balls in our specific case, their effectiveness has been indicated on other locations. In 1993 the Dominican Republic installed reef ball breakwaters and shortly after was hit by hurricane George. There was no after effect by the hurricane. The beach remained almost untouched.

Added value
The project aims to apply new and innovative production and manufacturing methods using a 6-Axis robotic arm to 3D print Reef Balls that will act as prevention to the erosion. Using a 3D printing robotic arm could allow easy adaptation of the design to fit in different scenarios or sites. Reef balls could be produced from different materials with ecological concrete being probably the most cost effective and recyclable material to be used. Using a digital process in the production of the reef balls would also allow for added values to the intervention. Apart from serving as breakwaters, the reef balls could be also seen as a way to activate the underwater life creating new homes for fishes, oysters etc.

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