From Catching Fish to 3D Printing- Recycling Fishing Nets with NetGain at Wilson School of Design
* This video was filmed in 2019 prior to COVID-19 *
Did you know that over 640 thousand tonnes of discarded fishing nets are lost in the ocean every year? At the Wilson School of Design at KPU, Dr. Victor Martinez and a team of students have been working on a project called NetGain that looks to recover fishing nets and turning them into filaments that can be used for 3D printing. This video was made possible by the funding from Future Skills Centre via Research Impact Canada.
Around 640 000 tons of fishing nets are lost every year in the oceans creating a huge environmental problem. They get lost because they get entangled and they have to cut it otherwise the boats may sink the nets reach the bottom of the ocean they can entangle with coral reefs and with fauna. So the problem is that these nets end up killing all the living things under the bottom of the ocean it's a very damaging process plastic will last thousands of years so retrieving the nets is crucial for that ecosystems to recover. Everybody was looking for finding a way of retrieving the nets which is essential but if you don't do something with the nets afterwards there is no economic incentive to continue getting these nets out of the ocean.
NetGain is taking the lost fishing nets and some nets that are old that fishermen cannot use anymore and we are transforming those nets into a filament for 3D printing. The 3D printing industry is worth around seven billion dollars in North America and it's expected to grow to 20 or a little bit more than 20 billion for 2030. So in 10 years it's going to grow three times and the objective basically was that now finding the correct parameters and the correct the most feasible ways of transforming these nets into three printable filament and it's trickier than what what it seems to because it's plastic and you know plastic can be melted and then easily transformed but the problem with these nets is that they are built in a way to make them uh very strong um they are flexible um obviously that's what they need in order to catch the fish but then when you use that those nets into the common machines that we have to shred plastic is is impossible. So I focus on that we experimented different ways of transforming those nets into basically little bits of plastic that then they go into a machine that extrudes the filament. We had very little time but we managed to produce a little bit of filament and we then tested in a 3D. printer and it worked.
My students did a wonderful job they they were very dedicated doing all you know all the testing and spending countless hours doing this it was really nice opportunity for them to learn you know about the plastic about the processes and especially about the uncertainties. When you are creating something new normally people just quit when you don't know how to move ahead and one of the key essence in in research is just to not quit not quitting just continue going and do your best and follow your your instinct and they did great.
The cost for retrieving one kilogram of nets from the bottom of the ocean is between one to two dollars if you then transform that kilogram of nets into the 3D printable filament those can be sold by around 40 dollars so there is a big space there for not only feeding back the process of retrieving these nets but also an economic incentive for a company to actually do it. When you have something that you've been working so hard for so many months suddenly just comes out perfect is indescribable, it's just great.