We work closely with our 3D print agency partner 3D Print Cornwall on lots of local projects from new product development, through artisitic or historic projects to the production of legacy spares.

The work we are doing with our hosts, the Newlyn Pier & Harbour Commission, is very definitely in the last category but with an eye to the future as local resilience to supply chain disruption rises on the agenda.

Newlyn Harbour Box Washer Spares

The Newlyn fish market (indeed every UK fish market) uses hundreds of open plastic boxes to store fresh fish from capture at sea, through landing and into the wholesale auction process. These are hardworking pieces of injection moulded HDPE (High Density PolyEthylene) that get taken to sea, held at near zero temperatures for days, stacked and dragged around the chilled market every morning, then washed in scaldingly hot water loaded with detergents to make sure they are super clean and ready for their next use. They are the red blood cells of a commercial fishing fleet.

The provision of hygienic fish boxes is a mission critical service within the fish market and around the harbour and, to carry the body metaphor one stage further, the machine that washes the boxes is the market’s equivalent of the liver, cleansing the blood ready for re-use.

Industrial Scale and Mission Critical

About 20 years ago Newlyn Fish Market bought a giant box washing machine to help deliver this essential service. It would look familiar to anyone with experience of working in a commercial kitchen but is far bigger than most dishwashers. It takes a team of several people to feed the washer with used boxes and then take the clean boxes away, including a fork lift truck and its driver.

Internally the washer environment is chemically aggressive. Hot and rich with chlorinated water, corrosion within the box washer is a very real problem, even for plastics. And while the body of the machine is made of high grade stainless steel there are components that have to provide low friction surfaces, especially those enabling adjustment to the high pressure water sprayers.

Delivering Legacy Spares

In recent months these plastic components had started to reach their end of life and when the harbour looked for spares the original manufacturer was no longer able to supply them. When asked if we might help, of course we leapt at the chance to show that our 100% recycled materials, materials that have a first life as fishing gear, could support uses within commercial fishing sector as well as outside it.

We looked at the box washer’s chemical and thermal use profile to explore if our recycled Marine Nylon® might be right, and discovered that it couldn’t be a better fit. The Nylon 6 that we recover from used fishing nets is chemically resistance and thermally stable to temperatures well above the boiling point of water, so we were sure that it would be possible to design and build the spares needed to keep the box washer running for many years to come. 3D Print Cornwall then took up the challenge to deliver the spares.

3D Scanning to Capture The Spares Design

In-situ scaning was not possible in this case as the components have a degree of internal structure. So the old parts were removed from the washer and a mobile scanner used to capture the shape in super high resolution – which was a problem.

You can see in the video highlighted and under UV light, that the parts were corroded – which was not a surprise and was why we were doing this in the first place. But it meant that they had to be reconstructed on a CAD platform, with surfaces smoothed and original dimensions restored before they could be 3D printed.

3D Print Cornwall quickly resolved this issue and the reconstituted electronic version of these spares now form an online inventory so that the harbour can order new ones as and when needed. They may be small and quite simple at a technical level but the ability to provide critical parts with little or no downtime is key for a mainstay of the Cornish economy.

The printer used was a BCN3D Epsilon W50.

The material was Porthcurno, our 100% recycled Marine Nylon®. The components were printed with 100% infill (solid) to maximise working life.

And finally these parts were put in place.

Fast forward to today and there are a couple of the old parts still in place (the white components) but the new (green) spares made from recycled nylon fishing net, supplied by the commercial fleet operating out of Newlyn Harbour, are now supporting its critical infrastructure, making harbour businesses more resilient. To date (after 6 months in place) the locally printed spares have not degraded and have provided 100% service.

At no point did this project require skills, materials or services that were not already available within 45 miles.