Can 3D Printing Improve the Air We Breathe?


About 25 percent of the ocean’s fish (and about a billion people) depend on healthy coral reefs for their survival.

Corals do more than host an amazing array of marine life. They also retain carbon dioxide and help maintain a healthy balance in our atmosphere.

The Skinny on Fat Carbon

Carbon dioxide. It’s the stuff we exhale, as do volcanoes, hot springs, and geysers. It’s also released into the atmosphere by the burning of coal, petroleum and natural gas, better known as fossil fuels. Sadly, wildfires also contribute with growing frequency. So, how much carbon dioxide, or CO², is in the air we breathe?

Most of the Earth's atmosphere consists of a mix of five gases: 78 percent nitrogen, 20.9 percent oxygen, 0.04 percent carbon dioxide, 0.93 percent argon and variable amounts of water vapor. In the case of the carbon dioxide, that 0.04 percent doesn’t sound like much, but even small changes in CO² levels can produce dramatic change. Why?

The Great Barrier Reef is the only animal construction on Earth visible from space.

Greenhouse Gases 101


While excess carbon in the atmosphere warms the planet and may, in fact, cause increased vegetation growth, excess carbon in the ocean, on the other hand, makes the water more acidic, putting marine life in danger.

Carbon dioxide is not only in the air we breathe. The global carbon cycle is the exchange of carbon dioxide between the earth’s atmosphere, land, oceans, and fossil fuels, all of which emit and absorb CO². Think of it as the earth, itself, breathing: inhaling and exhaling carbon dioxide. The goal, so that life on Earth continues as we know it, is simply to not have too much of it being exhaled.

Four times more coral is surviving on the terracotta tiles compared to conventional artificial reefs.

Breathe In and Hold . . .

The 3D-printed terracotta tiles produce four times more coral growth than other artificial reefs.

I’m a Little Coral, Short and Stout

Corals are actually invertebrate (lacking a backbone) creatures that survive largely by feeding on algae that live inside the coral, producing energy from sunlight. This is why most corals are found in fairly shallow, temperate waters. However, an increase in temperature or in oceanic acidity levels can force the coral to expel the algae. This results in the coral losing its food source, causing the coral to slowly starve to death, an event known as “bleaching.”

3D printing may, in fact, contribute to the quality of the air we breathe.

All Coral Reefs are Not Created Equal

Image credit: NASA JPL
The Great Barrier Reef as seen from space.

Essential Tools for CAD Users

Speaking of clever CAD users, we believe you’ve chosen one of the noblest professions: quietly shaping the future. You deserve all the help and support you can get, especially if it makes your work life easier and potentially gets you out of the office sooner. Regardless of your choice of platform — Revit®, AutoCAD® or MicroStation® — you know that while your platform gets the job done, it has its fickle, quirky moments. You know what we mean, because you deal with it every day: the frustration of repetitive manual tasks that chew up hours of your time — hours that could be spent either working on actual design, or, better yet, getting away from your computer to do the things you enjoy the most.

We can’t change your CAD/BIM platform. We can change how much time you spend on it.