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First Coral Maker designs and prototypes

The California Academy of Sciences and Autodesk collaborate through the Autodesk Foundation and Autodesk Technology Center, to create the first Coral Maker designs and prototypes in San Francisco.

First Coral Maker prototype 3D printed on an HP Jet Fusion 3D printer, at Autodesk Birmingham, UK.

In November of 2019, coral biologists from the California Academy of Sciences met with designers and engineers from Autodesk to begin a creative process to tackle one of the marine world’s most pressing problems; the unprecedented loss of coral reefs.

Specifically, the Coral Maker team aimed to solve problems around scalability in current coral gardening restoration methods.

Over four months the team met weekly, with members joining from San Francisco, Denver in Colorado, the UK and Australia.

With a focus on upscaling coral production, the team designed their product specifically for production using a traditional and ubiquitous masonry manufacturing technique – dry cast moulding. However, initial prototypes are being produced using 3D printing and a variety of 3D printers, including; Ultimaker, Bigrep and HP Jet Fusion 3D printers.

The dome shaped coral skeleton design, can be mass produced using dry casting and automatically or manually seeded with live coral fragments.

Life size (27cm diameter) prototype printing in a Bigrep 3D printer at the Autodesk Technology Center on Pier 9 in San Francisco, USA.

Although still in its infancy, this novel process can produce 4000 coral skeletons per day in one medium sized dry casting factory (approximately 1 million per year). This is compared to current production rates of around 25K per year.

Building a cross-industry team has allowed for rapid progress through the design phase. Next steps for the Coral Maker team are to trial the prototypes with live coral and automate the seeding process.

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