Sustainability is the hot topic in nearly every industry, with the world warming rapidly and experts warning that we might not reach the Paris Agreements goals. Additive manufacturing is no exception. 3D printing has been touted to be more eco-friendly but the amount of plastic used has frequently put this into doubt. This is why we are seeing an increase in the demand for eco-friendly materials. Fishy Filaments is a Cornish start-up. Fishy Filaments is tackling two environmental issues at once, by turning polluting fishing nets and making nylon filaments. They also work with a leading material manufacturer Fillamentum This company is well-known for its commitment to sustainability. We spoke with Ian Falconer, the founder of Fishy Filaments, and Josef Doleček, the CEO and founder of Fillamentum, to learn more about the companies, the importance of sustainable 3D printing materials and their collaboration.
3DN: Would you like to introduce yourself and discuss your connection with 3D printing?
IF: My name is Ian Falconer. I’m the founder of Fishy Filaments. My academic background lies in mining and mineral processing. 3D printing is not a manufacturing technology, but materials. However, I have over a decade of experience working in global telecoms infrastructure engineering. Fishy Filaments is the synthesis of these two worlds. We take ideas and technologies from both, and offer a fresh approach to providing high-performance materials without a global supply.
JD: My name is Josef Doleček, since 2008 I have been working in the field of plastics processing, first as an employee in a plastics company. In 2011, I established a company for precision extrusion plastics for automotive industries. 3D printing was something I had been interested in since the beginning. I felt like I could apply my knowledge of processing polymer materials to this new field. And this is a goal I’ve been trying to fulfill since the very beginning of our 3D printing materials business through our 3D printing filament brand Fillamentum.
3DN: How was the idea of developing fishy filaments born?
IF: A company wanted to develop large-scale metals mines. I worked in mine finance and was asked to look at the markets over a multi-decadal period. They were mining titanium, vanadium and had a by-product of high purity iron ore – all as powders. They had some roadblocks, if they were to serve. Additive Manufacturing at a reasonable price, and decided to attempt to address them.
For various reasons I didn’t get to the point of delivery with those solutions within the metals world but found that they worked just as well, and probably better, in the world of polymer recycling. Fishy Filaments represents a technological solution. It was a search for a problem that found it in used fishing gear.
3DN: How important is it to recycle fishing nets and make filaments?
IF: Although engineering and science were the solutions, the problem with fishing gear management and disposal was complex and nuanced. However, they are crucial globally. Our particular nets, made of nylon monofilaments and accounting for approximately 20% of global fishing catch, are responsible. All types of fishers use them, from small-scale artisanal and recreational fishermen fishing alone using a throw net to catch bait for larger fish species to large boats operating on the high seas with long nets that span several kilometers. It may be a surprise that the materials all the way along that wide spread of scale are essentially the same – they are all nylon monofilament.
The fishing industry receives approximately 200,000 tonnes of nylon monofilament each year from the plastics industry. At Fishy Filaments we think it may be quite a bit more than that, and maybe all the way up to 400,000 tonnes a year as there is some crossover with agricultural nets, mosquito nets and other uses for nylon ‘mono’ as Cornish fishers call it.
It is rare that this material is recycled. Most gets burned or buried after use and, according to data from researchers at Australia’s CSIRO, around 1-2% of monofilament nets get lost at sea. It takes nylon monofilamentnetting over six centuries for it to become brittle in water. So once lost it’s effectively there for good and represents a permanent hazard to non-target species in the phenomenon called ‘ghost netting’. But from this engineer’s point of view; disposing of this material, an engineering grade plastic that is designed for a really tough application, is a tragic waste of a resource.
JD: Fillamentum is also concerned about this. I have to say that when I heard about the circular economy many years ago, I had a very vague perception of the concept, and I couldn’t really imagine concrete applications – if only because until relatively recently there were very few meaningful circular projects. I was frustrated by the negative perception of our industry as a plastics professional and took it upon myself to show people and others that there are other ways that are more environmentally-friendly. We had already included Nonoilen, a material similar to this, in our portfolio and received positive feedback. It seemed like a natural step to include Fishy Filament. Because it is a wonderful example of how to tackle the problem of plastic waste reusing,
3DN: Please tell us more about Fishy Filaments made by Fillamentum
IF: Our target audience is industrial users and advanced users who demand performance and sustainability. Each product has a Life Cycle Assessment. In the future, we will also be pursuing corporate-grade sustainability certification. We make all our products available for financial and marketing reporting on ESG.
There are two product categories: unfilled and filled. All our current products are 100% recycled, but we do have some advanced formulations in R&D that use graphene and other addmixes. Longships is our unfilled blend. They are both translucent when thin, and can be used for homewares, cosmetic packaging and jewelry.
Porthcurno, a particularly attractive light blue-green, has taken the lighting world by storm. Signify/Philips Lighting won a share of an IDSA (Industrial Design Society of America), IDEA Gold award with their Coastal Breeze 3D printed lumieres. This puts us on par with Google, Microsoft, and Rolls Royce.
Unfortunately, Longships is not yet available as a filament because of technical difficulties. However, we will be looking at this in the future as these issues are resolved. It has a slightly stiffer profile and a darker color. Our main use for Longships is as a compounding base for our 0rCA® family of carbon-filled filaments. The first of the 0rCA® family has 10% carbon fiber fill, and it’s a recycled carbon fiber meaning filament made from it meets the 100% recycled criteria. Our carbon fiber is a customized blend of cut-and-milled fibers that meets the requirements of 3D printing and maximizes flexibility.
We’re aiming to serve manufacturers that have the need for high strength, impact resistance and a mid-range of heat resistance (so hot engine compartment – fine, but hot engine component – probably not). We’ve had interest from sustainable and inclusive mobility (EVs, cycling, mobility aids, etc), sports (extreme, water, racquet and motor so far), industrial component manufacturing and more. In time we will be adding to the 0rCA® family with a higher stiffness version targeted at applications in high G and higher torque environments such as wind turbine blade tips, unmanned aerial vehicles & robotics.
In addition to working with conventional manufacturing methods and HiTech to create mono-materiality, we are also trying to improve the potential for recycling complex structures. This is a way to use the same core chemistry for all building materials and to have that same chemistry be recycled in the same stream. We’ll be talking more about that idea as an overarching concept for closing the materials loop in advanced manufacturing, but it’s already part of the conversation in both fashion and auto markets.
JD: To add on, here we have a unique product that meets strict criteria in terms of performance – Fishy Filaments is a high quality PA6 polyamide which allows it to be used in technical, let’s say industrial applications such as automotive, but because of its unique look and story it is primarily designers and those who will use a combination of these properties for 3D printed design consumer items.
3DN: Do you have any last words for our readers
IF: We’re a small company working at the very edge of Europe that has already changed the world when, in 2019, we launched the first ever commercial 3D printer filament made from used fishing gear. The change caused by this action led to other much larger companies making changes and opening up a whole new market. Four years on and that market is maturing rapidly, but we haven’t stopped there.
Our products are the best in sustainability. Where engineering technology has to be considered against its own environmental impact, and where materials can make big differences to performance, our products are at forefront of sustainability. We let product designers and manufacturers use our products in their own way. We believe that there must be a proliferation of solutions to the environmental problems we face. We’ve found a brilliant partner in Fillamentum to help upscale our ideas, adding their own expertise and together bring exciting new products to market.
We will continue to be guided by the data, with carbon impact being our own moral compass, so it’s fantastic to be working with Josef & co who we know share our belief in and commitment to a positive future.
JD: Fillamentum sees sustainability and respecting our environment as not only a new trend but also a way to make sure that everyone understands the importance of this trend for the greater good. We would be happy if our view of the world, which we expressed years ago in a simple slogan – think before you print, would be adopted by both ordinary and especially professional users of 3D printing. We want to show that the sustainable way – using recycled materials does not mean compromising on performance. We also want to demonstrate that new technologies can address environmental problems head-on and offer solutions.
Fishy Filaments is a company I’m very happy to have met Ian Falconer, a person with whom I share a similar outlook on sustainability in 3D printing. We also share the same professional honor that drives us to find solutions that reflect the 21st century level of scientific knowledge. Learn more about Fillamentum HERE, and Fishy Filaments HERE.
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*Cover Photo Credits: Fillamentum