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2015/01/12

Japanese company wants to build ocean community with large-scale floating 3D printer

As both space and ocean exploration advance rapidly to further heights (and depths), the possibility of inhabiting these non-human-friendly environments are looking more and more possible thanks to technological marvels and the ability to accurately determine how it would happen - things that weren’t so easy even a decade ago.  

Of course, one way that we’ve been able to more accurately determine how this habitats would work is by actually going there with more advanced marine and spacecraft that are able to go further than ever before.  However for the majority of people who aren’t able to explore these places firsthand, the use of 3D printed models based on simulations and scans of the environments has been an immeasurable help in helping futurists, architects, artists, designers, engineers and more determine what the future of colonizing these environments might look like.  

One such concept that has been born out of the idea of one day being able to inhabit the ocean comes in the form of a futuristic self-sufficient city designed to float in the middle of ocean and uses the sea to run an infrastructure to support a population of 5,000 citizens.  

The Ocean Spiral, which was created as a solution for the continual threat to coastal communities due to unpredictable environmental conditions, was conceived of by the Shimizu Corporation, a Japanese company who believes that the cities of the future may soon be underwater.  

The Ocean Spiral design, which consists of a giant sphere that is 500 meters in diameter, would house hundreds of residential and commercial spaces in a 75-story tower.  The tower, which project downwards rather than up, would include apartments, stores, offices, a hotel, research facilities and more.  To protect the community, tethers and ballasts would secure the Ocean Spiral and prevent it from drifting while a seawall would be built to keep large waves away.

Perhaps most interestingly though, is that the designers want to build the concrete Ocean Spiral using a large-scale 3D printer that would float in the water.

If the 3D printed ocean community is built, the Shimizu Corporation believes that it will set the foundation for a new urban planning model that will help the environment through its use of self-sustained power, food and water while providing a new place to store carbon dioxide.

"The deep sea contains enormous possibilities that can possibly help ongoing environmental problems throughout the world," said Shimizu Corporation spokesman Hideo Imamura.

For energy production, a long spiraling tube could be projected 9-miles down to the sea floor and pull cold water up, which when combined with surface water,  would create thermal power.  The self-harvested energy could then be used to run a desalination system to convert the seawater into freshwater while an attached aquarium could be used for harvesting fish.  Additionally, the the city could send its carbon dioxide down to the sea floor where it would be converted to methane gas by microorganisms.  

Currently, the Shimizu Corporation is working with Japanese universities, agencies and ocean experts to further develop the concept into a feasible build solution.  With an estimated cost of $26 billion to build, it may also be capable of producing the world’s first and largest floating 3D printer.   

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