I wanna make 3d coral!
December 11, 2016 6:27 PM   Subscribe

So I just ordered a 3d printer for work. I really want to get in on making 3d coral to send to someone putting them in coral reefs.

Ok--so I know that this is probably something better done in a factory, or from different methods or something. BUT it would be a great teaching tool and the kids would get a kick out of it.

So is this at all worthwhile? Is there any place to donate 3D made coral?

If this is all a pipe dream let me know. Feel free to suggest alternative projects if you like. This is a first foray into 3d printing, so beginner projects are probably best.
posted by aetg to Education (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I just got a 3d printer for my classroom... 1st and 2nd graders. The first project we did was keyrings using tinkercad.com.

The coral idea is awesome... I'm there too, if anyone has a contact/resource.
posted by Huck500 at 7:15 PM on December 11, 2016

If coral doesn't work, a great organization that has a lot of resources to help out is Enabling the Future.

posted by gagoumot at 7:18 PM on December 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

3D printing coral is way more hazardous to the environment than not 3D printing coral. If you want to 3D print stuff, go ahead. Have fun. I totally believe in the educational capacity of 3D printers (click through my profile + twitter and you'll quickly find an enormous project I am involved in related to this - feel free to hit me up with Qs). But you aren't going to be saving the coral reefs I am afraid. Most home 3D printers use plastic, and a lot of environmentally hazardous energy (probably made by a local coal power station), to create the simplest things. 3D printing coral to save coral is therefore a pretty contradictory act (IMHO). Use that energy for more 'local' activism, is my advice. Your kids can make a difference with a 3D printer.
posted by 0bvious at 7:28 PM on December 11, 2016 [9 favorites]

Well, there's "creating coral", which is not something that you can actually do with a 3D printer because coral is a living organism; and there's creating artificial reef habitat. Artificial reefs are frequently purposely sunken ships or other large-scale vehicles (tanks, train cars, etc.) submerged to form habitat with the idea that coral and other things will eventually grow onto them. Tires and other smaller items are used, but they'd be assembled to be something larger in scale. Putting a bunch of plastic in the ocean is not necessarily the best idea.
posted by LionIndex at 7:47 PM on December 11, 2016 [3 favorites]

Well this article says that this is a project of the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center and very much still in its experimental phase, so I'd suggest contacting them to see if you can help.
posted by Jahaza at 7:55 PM on December 11, 2016 [2 favorites]

If it's your typical plastic extrusion printer, the stuff it prints will float in water and is probably not something you'd want to add to an environment anyway. 3D printers are cool, but I don't think they're a great fit for teaching an ecological message; as 0bvious said, they use energy and plastic. You might get in touch with a local maker space if you want ideas for what uses a 3D printer in a classroom could be put to.
posted by Aleyn at 10:16 PM on December 11, 2016

Response by poster: 3D printing coral is way more hazardous to the environment than not 3D printing coral. If you want to 3D print stuff, go ahead. Have fun.

The reef projects are probably working with ceramic 3D printers rather than plastic printing desktop units.

Ok--so my pipe dream is a little squashed. I kind of figured we didn't have the right type of machine regardless. Although as Jahaza notes--there are places that doing this with their own expertise and I'm sure they aren't doing anything environmentally unsound.

Anyone other ideas are welcome.
posted by aetg at 4:30 AM on December 12, 2016

I mean, depending on the size of your print bed you could 3d print molds which you could fill with non-plastic material that might be non-hazardous.

I helped build artificial reef starters, and the scale we worked on was pretty large compared with 3d printing. We had forms the size of 50 gallon drums made with hydraulic cement. We made truck loads of those with only a few people and pretty limited equipment. The thing is that while a 3d printer could better capture the art and complexity of coral it can't capture the massive scale of a reef.
posted by French Fry at 7:24 AM on December 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

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