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3D printed concrete reef made for Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center's Gamefish Lagoon

Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center's Gamefish Lagoon (WPEC)
Florida Oceanographic Coastal Center's Gamefish Lagoon (WPEC)
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The desire to create artificial reefs in Florida’s waters continues to grow, as coral reefs die off at alarming rates.

However, cutting edge 3D printing technology may have unlocked a whole new way to make quality artificial reefs - at a faster rate.

That technology was used to make a concrete reef right here in Stuart - and will be one of the first of it’s kind to make an impact on an ecosystem featuring turtles, sharks, fish and rays - the 750,000 gallon Gamefish Lagoon.

“The smaller animals can swim through there and the turtles will rest under here,” remarked Brittany Hascup, the Director of Animal Care and Life support for the Florida Oceanographic Society, as she pointed towards digital renderings of the printed reef. “It’s going to allow a lot of cubbyholes for animals to swim in and out of," she continued, "because it is concrete, just like our tank, it allows things to grow on it and it becomes kind of a natural portion of our tank.”

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A company named 'Printed Patio' is used one of the few Vertico concrete 3D printers in the US to shape 1.1 miles of concrete into a reef.

“The technology in our printer allows us to do much more intricate designs and shapes, and so that’s where you’re ending with the with this being a really cutting edge technology cause we’re actually injecting accelerant at the printhead, and that’s allowing the concrete to cure in less than a minute,” explained Printed Patio's CEO, Justin D'Angelo.

D’Angelo says his introduction to Florida Oceanographic Society came when his wife donated lettuce from their home garden to the wildlife.

“We had been in their facility multiple times and we just said ‘this could be a really cool fit’ and we started to talk with them and they were really excited about the idea,” he recalled.

That led to the creation and donation of this reef - which will be a monumental experiment - about four feet below the surface.

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“An example for people who want to look at restoration projects and see what the reef looks like with their own eyes, in clear water, and kind of look at it over time,” Hascup stated.

Both of them think this is just the beginning - they can see reefs like this making an impact in bigger bodies of water.

“Couldn’t see why not. They’re already utilized in areas like Portugal and Spain and they’ve had a lot of success,” Hascup said.

“I think it’s going to be a really good habitat for all the kinds of marine life in that lagoon," D'Angelo added.

The reef will be put into the Oceanographic Society’s Gamefish Lagoon in the first half of 2023.

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