Repurposing Old Fishing Nets as 3D Printer Filaments

The startup Fishy Filaments from Cornwall has found a way to turn discarded fishing nets into 3D printer materials.

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Imagine strolling along the sea, letting your eyes wander – and you are disturbed by all sorts of ocean waste. This does not sound unusual, right? Welcome to reality! But this might soon be a thing of the past, thanks to Fishy Filaments. At least when it comes to discarded fishing nets. The startup from Cornwall has found a way to make them applicable to 3D printers.

Ocean Waste with a Good Purpose

By turning fishing nets into 3D printer materials, the team around materials scientist and geologist Ian Falconer provides a clean, self-financing waste disposal system.

“In simple terms, I’m trying to set up a local plastics company, which transforms used fishing nets into a high-value, quality product for use in relatively low-cost fused filament 3D printers,“

Falconer explains the concept behind his approach.

Since fishing nets used in his region are largely made from Nylon 6, he considers them to be ideal for recycling into filament. This material is actually already established in 3D printing and is not directly dependent on volatile oil prices or hazardous locations.

„Fishy Filaments‘ solution uses simple mechanical and thermal processes that can be achieved at a local scale and with no chemicals added.“

Furthermore, it has only little influence on the environment, because there is no need for excessive energy usage.

Fishy Filaments Crowdfunder from Fishy Filaments on Vimeo.

Fishy Filaments, From a Local Hero to a Global Success?

It was in 2016 that Fishy Filaments already proved that its 3D printer filaments made from fishing nets could be used by a commercially available, low-cost 3D printer. In order to take the project to the next level, Falconer has successfully run a crowdfunding campaign afterward. The money raised will now be used to conduct a commercial feasibility study and scaling up the operation, requiring new machinery.

For the time being the business model is limited locally to the south coast of England. After all,

“[e]ach fishery has a distinctive culture and set of target species defined by natural fish distribution. The practice in that fishery extends to net types and gear usage. That means different polymers used differently and in different volumes,“

Falconer says. However, what he thinks might work is a franchise-like system with product lines adjusted to the respective environment.

Additionally, the company is searching for a way to use local boat and board-building waste for a carbon fibre enhanced version of its nylon filament and explores the possibility for a second filament material made from large polyethylene trawl nets.

As the 3D printing industry is growing more and more, the need for alternative materials and resource-saving technologies will increase constantly. What other recent examples do you know? Please leave us a comment next to this blog article.