INDIAN SCENARIO

India’s First 3D Printed Modular Artificial Reef in Pondicherry, Courtesy of a Mumbai Teen

3D printed modular artificial reef

17-year old Siddharth Pillai’s named his project Bennington’s Reef, to honour Chester Bennington, American musician and Linkin Park frontman who died in 2017.

3D printed modular artificial reef
Above: Siddharth Pillai ready to set-up his 3D printed blocks in Pondicherry/Image Credit: Hindustan Times

In an interesting application of 3D printing, Siddharth Pillai, a 17-year old teen from Mumbai’s BD Somani School designed and patented a system of interlocking blocks, assembling them along the Pondicherry coast to create India’s first 3D printed modular artificial reef. The reef – the largest section spans 20m – was installed two weeks ago and experts estimate that it will start hosting marine life in roughly a month.

Siddharth is an avid diver and this has helped him see first-hand how the coral reefs have been bleached due to rise in the global ocean temperatures. Bleached coral also stops hosting marine life, and erodes shorelines, adding to more ecological problems.

3D printed modular artificial reef
Above: Coral reefs support 25% of all marine species on the planet/Image Credit: andBeyond

Speaking to Hindustan Times, Siddharth said, “They lose colour, crumble and die in 30 days. Seeing dead coral on the sea floor is disgusting and heartbreaking. The fact that no one in India knows this or was doing anything about it gave me anxiety.”

Siddharth thought he wanted to find a solution to rebuild reefs and while discussing it with his father, he was suggested to think of 3D printing. This struck a chord. He says, “I took a 45-day course in May 2018, working out a way to make the model porous, so coral can latch on to it.” He filled in the prototype mould with cement mix at home.

The reef is cast in a dolomite-cement mix, and since the blocks connect to each other, it’s easier to build, assemble and scale.

Siddharth raised the capital through crowfunding and gathered around Rs. 2 Lakh to manufacture around 200 blocks of 11 kilograms each. These blocks were then packed and sent to Pondicherry to the diving centre called Temple Adventures. This dive centre helped him set up the blocks in the sea.

According to a marine biologist Suneha Jagannathan, who works on restoring coral and marine habitats, “Artificial reefs are not new but in India, this is the first, and it shows potential for soft-coral growth. It’s also a rare chance to see how a new ecosystem develops, what comes first, how it evolves and how marine life supports itself.”

Siddharth believes that the core solution to the problem is to stop the warming of the ocean and only that can help in the long run.


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