[Image: Fishy Filaments]

A good crowdfunding success story is a wonderful thing, especially when that success impacts more than just the business itself. Fishy Filaments was founded with a noble goal in mind – to save marine life by converting used fishing nets into 3D printer filament. The startup launched a crowdfunding campaign earlier this year to raise funds to help scale up the business, and succeeded in surpassing its goal of £5,000. Since then, Fishy Filaments’ success has only been growing.

The next step was an equity crowdfunding campaign through Crowdcube. That campaign raised £200,000 from equity investors – in fact, it was so successful that Fishy Filaments founder Ian Falconer had to close it two weeks early. The company has been in talks with government-backed funding agencies to discuss capital support for some parts of the business plan, as well as with innovation support schemes linked with local universities.

“I think its fair to say that the fund raising was a massive success for such a small company. By the end we will have raised ~146% of the £140k target, which gives us a little headroom but certainly doesn’t allow for complacency or slack spending control,” Falconer said of the Crowdcube campaign, which closed one month ago.

[Image: Ian Falconer]

The next step is building a staff. Falconer will become CEO, and is currently searching for an Operations Manager; once the company is fully operational he plans to recruit five staff members. He plans to have the first production equipment commissioned by Christmas, and then it’s on to fulfilling the Cornwall-based company’s ocean-cleaning mission. Fishy Filaments will work with local fisheries to collect fishing nets that have reached the end of their useful lives. Those nets will then be processed into 3D printer filament.

Recycling methods for fishing nets already exist, but they have their own environmental impacts, says Falconer. Because fishing nets are made of nylon, it doesn’t take much to transform them into filament, meaning that there’s no need for harsh chemicals or for transporting the material across the world.

“Fishing nets get damaged and broken and when they reach the end of their life they either end up in landfill or they are recycled 1,000 miles away in Slovenia,” Falconer said. “That makes it a time consuming, expensive and not really environmentally friendly process.”

Fishy Filaments will focus, at least at first, on fishing nets that come directly from fishing boats, rather than so-called “ghost nets” that can be found in the water or on the beach. Those nets tend to be contaminated with dirt and sand that would damage the machines breaking them down into filament.

[Image: Fishy Filaments]

“This is prevention rather than cure,” Falconer said. “We are working with the fishing industry in Cornwall to get damaged and broken nets off straight off the boats before they end up in landfill or on a lorry travelling across Europe…We aren’t a ‘ghost net’ processor. We will be tacking the net disposal problem by working with the fishing industry and providing a cost effective disposal route for as many of their used plastics as possible. We have an on-going R&D (research and development) programme, so as time goes on we should be able to take more and more different sorts of nets from more and more ports.”

A future project involves looking into recycling large trawler nets made from polyethylene and polypropylene.

[Image: Fishy Filaments]

Falconer, who went to the Camborne School of Mines, worked on oil rigs and in the mining industry before returning to school to learn about energy, environment and pollution policies for mining businesses. His concern for the environment led him to find a way to reduce pollution from fishing nets, which injure and kill wildlife when they end up back in the ocean and along the coasts after being discarded. Falconer’s goal is to process one ton of nets this year, seven tons next year and 15 tons the  year after that.

The company will be based in the town of Newlyn, and will start as a local business, but according to Falconer, he is already receiving inquiries from around the world about setting up overseas. If the company gets successful enough, who knows? The problem of fishing net waste exists around the world, so there’s a need everywhere for a means of safely disposing of nets. Fishy Filaments may eventually sell the filaments it makes from the nets on a national or even global scale, so you never know – something you 3D print someday may be saving marine lives.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Source: CornwallLive]

 

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