In a sustainability initiative Volvo Cars – a separate company from Volvo Group – has installed a 3D-printed marine habitat in Sydney Harbour. The Living Seawall is composed of 50 tiles designed to mimic mangrove roots and will provide new marine habitat for years to come.
Made from marine concrete, the tiles are designed to provide the crevices animals use to create colonies. Over the next two decades, researchers will monitor the site to see how water quality and biodiversity improves.
Approximately half of Sydney’s coast has been converted to manmade seawall over the last 200 years due to increased urbanisation, a process that has removed large sections of mangrove jungle, and along with it all of the marine and coastal life that resides and feeds in and around the interweaving mangrove roots.
That marine life has a purifying effect on the water as many of the organisms feed on toxins, chemicals, and particulate matter that are the result of human pollution.
The project draws on biomimicry, where natural systems are simulated, with each hexagonal tile incorporating the interwoven structure of mangrove roots as well as a more complex texture underneath to encourage the growth of microorganisms.
The tiles were cast from a 3D printed mould using a mixture of cement and recycled plastic. The layers from the FDM (fused deposition modelling) 3D printing process are still visible, but that’s actually a good thing because it’s the same texture as oysters, which are one of the filtering organisms expected to take up residence in the tiles; the matching texture will aid the oysters in growing onto the tiles.
For the 3D printed Living Seawall, Volvo Cars partnered with North Sydney Council, the Sydney Institute of Marine Science, and Reef Design Lab, a Melbourne-based designer of marine habitat infrastructure.
“We’ve lost 50 percent of the world’s mangrove forests, and in their place, we’ve built things like seawalls, which proliferate around Sydney Harbour. Tearing down the seawalls is not viable,” said Nick Connor, Managing Director of Volvo Cars Australia.
“There’s a Swedish word, omtanke, that means ‘caring’ and ‘consideration.’ I think that really captures what we’re trying to achieve with the Living Seawall, and it sums up Volvo Car’s approach to sustainability in general. We’re always trying to rethink, reinvent, redesign for the better.” When it comes to redesigning, there’s no better ally than 3D printing.