Fishy Blog

30 days on from crowdfunding success

We closed the Crowdcube equity-based crowdfunding campaign a month ago and there seems to be growing interest in how Fishy Filaments is getting on, so here goes….

By necessity a lot of this will be quite vague as discussions are very definitely on-going, but on-going in the right direction I hope.

The vast majority of funds have now been collected, and the technical and legal side of the share issue is nearly complete. Many thanks to Crowdcube for their dilligence and efficiency, and for making the process as painless as possible on the corporate front. But also many thanks to all the investors for their enthusiasm about the company and its project.

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. Fishy Filaments is built to be quite a tight ship from the outset with capital efficiency as well as resource efficiency being key objectives.

We have started the detailed design process for the production units, are receiving quotes for the production equipment and have started the process of building a new online presence, including an e-commerce capacity built to meet the new data protection regime from day one. These are all absolutely essential steps in bringing the product to market.

As I anticipated and spoke about during the fund raising, we are now in detailed discussions with government-backed funding agencies to explore the potential for capital support in some parts of the business plan.

I have also started discussions with a number of innovation support schemes linked with local universities, to explore how they might assist the onward R&D program. We have made some excellent progress there in capacity discovery, so finding out how the innovation programs aims and objectives align with Fishy Filaments own corporate aims. They are still at an early stage but I expect these discussions to develop.

I’ve opened discussions with local skills support and development agencies to ensure that we have a general workforce with the right skills and training, and that we can structure onwards skills development as the company grows. It probably won’t be in the first few months, maybe even a year, but for a small company apprenticeships seem to offer a strong route to a properly skilled workforce.

The first hire is myself. I become a company employee on 1st November as I take the role of CEO. The task of finding an Operations Manager is on-going. The job specification has undergone a couple of revisions, but I still anticipate it to be the second position that is filled.

Internally we’re still on track to be commissioning the production gear by Christmas but, as mentioned during the fund raising, there are some external factors, such as site preparation and the potential of capital support, that could still delay ‘first filament’.

There are still hurdles (known and unknown), as you might and should expect in a brand new business. One of the oddest, but repeating, issues that I’ve come up against is defining the business in a way that fits a tick box. So far FFL has been described as ‘manufacturing’, ‘environmental’ and ‘waste management’ simply because an external organisation’s paperwork doesn’t account for a Circular Economy business model where all three could apply. For a company with no trading history that tick box can have odd impacts where finance risk and insurance premiums are concerned.

From a distance it might not seem like a massive amount of progress towards first sale, but this first month has been all about laying the right foundations for success. I’m particularly excited about some of the potential partnerships in product R&D and delighted to be finding so much common ground out there with people and organisations who either share or can see value in the Fishy Filaments vision.

There is a lot of support out there, both in professional terms and in the sense of good will, but also (rightly) a bit of pressure to deliver. That isn’t a complaint. Its a recognition that as the instigator of the project and now Founder/CEO of a company with shareholders, I have a duty to follow through and make it a success.

 

 

Brief update – Networking

Fishy Filaments is networking as it prepares to build a fishing net recycling factory in Cornwall, UK

As we complete the formalities of our recent successful equity-based crowdfunding Fishy Filaments is shifting focus towards production, but also looking ahead towards the next phase of R&D.

In recent days I’ve had meetings and conversations with government agencies and business support functions, R&D initiatives and others which I expect to follow up. But I’ve also attended the InterplasUK and TCT (3DP) trade shows at the Birmingham NEC to meet equipment manufacturers (maybe try and drive down their prices a bit) and generally scope out what the rest of the industry is up to.

The tri-annual Interplas show was really useful, and I especially thank the team from Bruker for their one-minute analysis of a sample of our recycled material.

For recyclers product consistency is a challenge, and cost effective analytical procedures are often cited as holding back a greater degree of recycling, especially in mixed waste streams.

Bruker’s compact FT-IR spectrometer confirmed, from an existing data library and in an exhibition hall, that the material is Nylon 6 and they could even suggest its origin down to the factory. Both of which data confirmed information that I already had, but its good to see an accessible piece of lab-based analytical gear provide the hard data independently.

But just having kit is only one part of the capacity to deliver product consistency. We also discussed whether the equipment could be used to develop routine testing proceedures to ensure that FFL’s product meets expected product standards every time.

And finally on this issue; as we approach product certification for sales into the corporate market, having a in-house capacity to deliver the analysis is key and the recent start-up of the Lab Tech apprentice program at Cornwall College seems to offer a means to address the skills side of the equation. I expect to be opening a discussion with the Cornwall & IOS Skills Hub in due course.

In the context of longer term R&D, I was at the an event with Marine-i yesterday. There to understand their role in delivering innovation support for the Cornish maritime sector, and within the context of the maritime sector being included in the government’s industrial strategy. Great to hear about the integrated support from them alongside InnovateUK, Catapult, Exeter & Plymouth Unis and Cornwall Marine Network.

Also good to hear the confirmation of a dedicated £40m investment fund for more general Cornish business support, £20m of which will be available as debt, and £20m for equity positions that the fund might take in local businesses. Its been on the cards for a while, but is now scheduled to open its doors in 2018.

So its all go, and even before the crowdfunding funds have ‘landed’ we’re making good progress.

 

A New Wave of UK Fisheries Tech

The size of the UK’s fishing fleet might be a fraction of what it once was but there is a new wave of fisheries technology coming from our island nation that innovators hope will make global fishing more sustainable.

Obviously as a specialist fishing net recycler, Fishy Filaments sees itself as part of this movement by making sure that end-of-life nets are captured and the value of their materials used to best effect, but companies such as Fishtek Marine and SafetyNet Technologies are working more directly with the age-old process of fishing itself.

It may be a revelation to many of those who eat their produce but fishers are not inherently technologically conservative. If you visit the wheelhouse of any modern commercial fishing boat you can see satellite broadband, sonar, GPS, remote cameras or any number of other electronic aids. Boats are better designed, safer, more efficient and more comfortable for an industry used (probably too used) to high levels of inherent danger and exposure to unpredictable elements.

What hasn’t changed much in the last 30-40 years are the nets themselves. Yes, materials have changed allowing nets to grow in size. Yes, fisheries management standards have been implemented in some areas (notably the EU and US fisheries). But the job of the net and especially the selectivity of the fishing gear has not been fundamentally addressed until recently.

In the last year or two ambitious ideas like using a swarm of robotic submarine drones to herd fish, or using a robotic vacuum to suck up individual fish identified by image recognition software have started to surface. But there are simpler things that fisheries technologists can do to help mitigate the impact of fishing, and bycatch is one area where two UK companies are working hard.

Fishtek Marine works mainly to prevent non-fish bycatch, so birds, reptiles or marine mammals that might either be attracted by fishing gear or stumble into it by accident. It is a significant issue and can be a highly emotive subject since some of the species affected are rare, charismatic or both. Many fishers are deeply affected themselves if their gear inadvertently snares a passing whale or dolphin, and there is absolutely no economic benefit to catching ocean-going seabirds like petrels or albatrosses as they mistake fish lures for their own prey species. In fact, bycatch can be costly to fishers in terms of money and time, due to increased fuel costs, damaged or lost gear and can give fishing a bad name.

Fishtek produces sonic ‘pingers’ designed to reduce bycatch of marine mammals. The pingers are tuned to the hearing of specific species (whales, dolphins and porpoises) known to be present in a particular fishery and be at risk of entanglement with nets. These devices alert marine mammals to the presence of nets in the water by emitting a sound enabling them to take avoiding action, but the fish being hunted are unaware of the deterrence.

The company also produces a reusable fish lure as an alternative to commonly used chemical glowsticks. Longline fisheries use and lose hundreds of tonnes of these glowsticks every year, adding to plastic pollution and creating a long lasting ingestion hazard for non-target species. The Fishtek Marine solution is battery powered and can work for up to 3 years, saving the fishery cash whilst also reducing potential plastic pollution. The company calculates that one ProGlow could replace as many as 500 glowsticks before the batteries need replacing.

Dr. Robert Enever of Fishtek Marine says:

“The global population continues to rise and the demands we place on the planet’s resources have become unsustainable. With this knowledge it is now our responsibility to act fast and behave in a way that ensures the finite resources we use are sourced sustainably. Fishtek Marine is developing technologies which facilitate the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources, in a way that that benefits both the environment AND the fishermen.”

 

SafetyNet Technologies is working to increase the selectivity of nets themselves, reducing bycatch by giving fish a visual signal that is either attractive or repulsive, depending on the species. Moreover the device, in the form of a circular ring of waterproof LEDs whose colour can be tuned to specific species’ preferences, can be fitted to existing gear. The SafetyNet Device has undergone successful sea trials and is in preparation for a wider phase of operational testing.

Nadia Laabs of SafetyNet Technologies says:

“SafetyNet Technologies is focused on increasing sustainability in the commercial fishing industry. Current fishing processes and technologies can be very unselective, leading to the capture of the wrong species and ages of fish and their subsequent wastage. We aim to make the fishing industry smarter through technology development to accelerate scientific research, applying its findings in the form of affordable, user-friendly electro-mechanical devices and new fishing practices.”

 

The issue of fish bycatch and discards is especially contentious in highly regulated fisheries such as the EU, where fishers complain that quotas are always based on past scientific evidence rather than current species availability. In complex mixed species fisheries, such as those off the Southern coast of England, it can be difficult for netters to select species and for hook & line fishers to stop non-target species biting. In both cases, discards or bycatch can occur which can be damaging to fish stocks and the wider marine environment, but can also be costly and distressing to fishers and their families as every day spent at sea is a calculated risk

The ability to select only those species and sizes required or allowed can only be a good thing, both for the sustainability of the fishery and the welfare of those that rely on it. As innovators like Fishtek Marine and Safety Net Technologies work to help improve fishing itself, at Fishy Filaments we hope to make sure that the inevitable waste arising from commercial fishing is put to best use.

Finally, and really just starting out, is the InnovateUK Satellite Catapult, whose Blue Economy sector focus seeks to develop and implement space-based technologies for the benefit of seafarers and sustainable fishing. So whether that is tracking Illegal, Unreported & Unregulated (IUU) fishing activity by using artificial intelligence to compare satellite imagery to GPS shipping locators, assessing changes to sea temperature or biological activity such as phytoplankton growth to help predict fish stocks, or accurately mapping sea depth from space, the UK is innovating in the fisheries sector, with potential for global application and partnerships.

Investments of this nature carry risks to your capital. Please #InvestAware.

 

 

 

New materials bring offshore opportunities for 3D printing

We’re only at the start of exploring 3D printing for application in and around the ocean says Ian Falconer of Fishy Filaments

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The following is an opinion piece written by Ian Falconer, Founder/CEO of Fishy Filaments.

At the end of 2015 I spoke at an Innovate UK event at Plymouth Marine Lab on the potential uses of 3D printing in the marine sector. It was a small but exclusive audience with representatives from companies and organisations with global reach and a presence at the extremes of engineering. Participants were there to understand and discuss how best 3D printing and its blue-chip brother, additive manufacturing, might be applied in and around the ocean, and contribute to a workshop on long term strategy in the field.

One of the main points I made was that a new machine called the MarkForged heralded a new era for low cost 3D printing in the marine sector because of its use of nylon, carbon fibre and kevlar to provide metal-like performance, but using only polymers. The machine itself was innovative, but it was the materials and the price of the machine that made the big difference.

I also talked about then recent advances in 3D printed morphing surfaces as means to adjust drag and grip, and the lack of research into materials toxicity with respect to biofouling.

But what seemed to grab the most attention was the idea that maritime ‘luxury’ had a business model that could be approached via 3D printing, where everything was bespoke and built to order, so long as the right materials were available to make aesthetically pleasing, as well as functional, forms. The idea that 3DP materials have a non-empirical value and can express ‘values’ had not occurred to most participants as a model upon which businesses could be built.

Since then, less than 2 years ago, hardware at the low-cost end of the market, the printer types that only use plastics, have sold approaching a million machines. Over 100% growth in sales of desktop 3D printers has been seen in 2016. New machines or components seem to be coming to market every month. The trends seem to be for bigger, faster, hotter, easier-to-use & cheaper. Alongside the hardware and software developments there new materials entering the market and plastics industry giants like BASF and DuPont are starting to add to the pace of change with their own 3D printing materials R&D units as industry starts to demand the plastics they are used to engineering with, but in 3D printer-ready form.

On the flip-side the machines able to produce metal parts still haven’t arrived at a price point where most individuals and SMEs can afford them, and the older technologies and well-known companies supplying them, such as Stratasys and 3DSystems, seem to be treading water in terms of technological advance. It remains to be seen if the entry of the BASFs and DuPonts of this world reinvigorates the high end of the market.

However, in my opinion, the commercial marine sector still doesn’t appear to have grabbed on to some fundamental opportunities lodged at the heart of fused filament 3D printing.

As I said in my talk these are two-fold; engineering and aesthetics.

I’m going to focus here on the engineering side of things where some of the structural weaknesses in the fused filament process that are exposed by engineering for dry land applications can easily be avoided when the end design sits on or in water. This means, hypothetically at least, it should be easier to build bigger structures for marine applications using fused filament deposition technologies than for dry land.

To dive a little deeper;

The fundamental paradigms for engineering larger structures on land or in the air are dominated by gravity and mass. That means that weight is always a cost, whether that is expressed through fuel efficiency, the amount of a material used in a design or the expense of a material to meet specific design tolerances. And because most metals are super-strong in tension (when being stretched) their use dominates designed materials when we engineer those larger structures for use in air. Of course non-designed materials such as earth & stone are an ever present in static ground-based structures.

Only at the very extremes of design do other materials, such as carbon composites, really get a look in, and then still by virtue of their own strength to weight ratio rather than any other factor, such as transparency, shapability or aesthetic appeal. At the extremes of engineering for use in air, everything kind of looks the same, to the point where even designers of mass-produced automobiles sometimes use cosmetic patches of carbon fibre mat to imply an association with high performance engineering.

Historically ‘tension’ has been a problem for fused filament 3D printing because the technology constructs each body by heat-welding layer on top of layer, and each layer boundry is a potential zone of weakness that can be pulled apart when enough extensive force is applied.

In water (a fluid 780 times denser than air at sea level) a far higher proportion of the dominant stresses are expressed through drag and compressive forces such as bouancy, rather than weight and tension. Put another way, the risk for sealed and pressurised underwater structures is usually implosion not explosion.

So where the layer-by-layer deposition of plastics can result in forms that fail more easily under undirectional extensive force than methods like injection moulding, those same fused filament methods should be more suited to withstanding multi-directional compressive forces, like those imposed on a sealed form submerged in water. Immediately low-cost 3D printing starts to look a better fit for marine engineering applications than has previously been expressed.

Of course nothing is perfect and you have to consider the orientation of the individual layers of plastic to avoid modes of failure parallel to the direction of layer deposition. However when you start to factor in the new materials and the requirement to use CAD software to design for 3D printing, a requirement that brings computational techniques like Finite Element Analysis within range almost for free, then you can start to optimise designs for compression and drag rather than extension and gravity.

Add in new printing methods such as syn-depositional fusion enabled by nanomaterials or graphene, post-depositional annealing by thermal or microwave treatment, and the desired ‘isotropic’ engineering performance is getting closer anyway. (NB; Some of these syn and post-print techniques look over-complex to me and I believe there are opportunities here too).

On the materials side we’ve seen that nylon and carbon fibre make a great team when used by the Markforged printers. But we’re also starting to see plastics that are marine sector staples, such as polypropylene (PP) reach the low-cost 3D printing market. I believe that the potential for large format 3D printing using PP is yet to be fully realised.

So, all the ingredients seem to be in place now; larger, faster, cheaper 3D printers capable of using engineering grade plastics, an increasing understanding of the different design challenges that the marine environment presents, and software that can simulate those challenges before we commit to build anything.

We should definitely be looking at using 3DP for use in the marine environment, not just making models using it. The Royal Navy is thinking about it and the US Navy is doing it.

 

 

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3D printing and fashion

Does 3D printing have a future in fashion?

According to Ray Kurzweil, the US technologist, certainly.
At the beginning of this year he said “As the variety of materials available to print in 3D become more extensive and less expensive, both free open-source and proprietary clothing designs will be widely available online in as little as 10 years.”

Ray is a little behind the times though as you can buy 3D printed clothes online now.

3D printed accessories and jewellery have been around for over a decade, and successful business have been based on the freedom the technology provides to designers to express their ideas. A particular favorite here is Nervous System in the US, who blend 3DP with algorithms to allow computers to design pieces which reflect natural systems and organisms.

But its not just accessories, a number of different designers are using 3DP to help build full scale garments. 3D printed shoes seem to be a particular focus right now with Feetz, Adidas and Peak Sports (China) all advertising footwear made using 3D printing technology.

There are issues of course, the main one being the wearability of the ‘textile’ analogue, after all clothes are a technology that have evolved with us over thousands of years. The other big issue is the nature of fashion itself. High fashion designers tend to design for themselves rather than for the general public, and it can take a while for their ground breaking ideas to filter down and be diluted enough for mass roll-out. At every step down that chain there are economic challenges and it may be that 3DP doesn’t fit some of those challenges, yet.

But fashion doesn’t just work top down. Often its bottom up with streetware getting taken up into the high street brands. Remember screen printing ? A recent YouTube clip from RCLifeOn (https://youtu.be/YUW8G4vXZfg) shows that you can 3D print your own T-shirt designs using flexible filament and a home printer.

So given the rapidity of price falls, the increasing ease of use and increasing diversity of materials over the last couple of years, it really does look like 3DP and fashion are starting to see eye-to-eye.

What does the OECD say about the environmental side of 3D Printing ?

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There has long been debate about whether 3D printing, as a technology, is actually a net (sorry) benefit for the environment, after all it has a complex and global supply chain, but also has the potential to localise and democratise the means of production. Its a global-local solution that was never designed with the environment in mind.

In a long, complicated and just slightly behind the times discussion released as part of the May 2017 e-book, The Next Production Revolution: Implications for Governments and Business, the industrialised nations uber-think-tank’s conclusions are attached below but, paraphrasing, it says this;

3D printing doesn’t automatically imbue enviromental advantages just by virtue of its technology, in fact in some cases it can have a higher environmental impact than conventional manufacturing and very few in the sector have addressed sustainability in their business models.

However if you address energy use in the supply chain and use materials that are relatively benign (chemically speaking) then it has great potential, even at an industrial scale. At a small scale it can already carry less environmental impact than conventional manufacturing technologies, when assessed using techniques such as Life Cycle Assessment. The OECD cites estimates that ~70% less environmental impact could be achieved by combining currently available technologies (within 3DP itself and supporting tech), when compared with injection moulding.

What can’t be known with certainty is the post-production impact of any new ideas, either in products and processes, that are spawned by widespread access to advanced fabrication technologies. And the so-called ‘in-use’ impact of a lightweight car part, or a door stop, or a prosthetic hand is almost impossible to evaluate at a systemic level.

Finally the freedom provided by low-cost 3DP technologies for localised design and production in non-industrialised and less developed parts of the world, especially in growing cities, is an area that again, has great potential.

These social and ‘in-use’ impacts are likely to be far higher than those of the technology itself while operating, which means that enabling access through training and lowering price barriers is key to the technology reaching its potential as an environmental benefit.

So, as far as Fishy Filaments is concerned it is gratifying to know that the OECD seems to agree with us that by using recycled nylon (a well understood and chemically safe material), 3D printing can have significant environmental benefits, and with policy support could have even more. Our longer term plan, for bioplastics made of seafood processing wastes, seems to fit extremely well with the OECD’s advice to policy-makers.

 

The text;

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Interest from Action Sports

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A plastic manufacturer might not seem a natural fit for the environmentally aware, outdoors and action sports crowd, but Fishy Filaments is getting plenty of attention there.

We’ve had discussions with action sports businesses around the world, including two global brands, about providing them 3D printing materials to help them share and re-enforce their messages.

The idea that a customer can help do good is a proven one, so allowing a brand to make whatever they wish using a material that aligns with core values such as environmental responsibility, legacy and performance could be a powerful combination.

We tested this idea with help from a leading surfboard maker, Chris ‘Bro’ Diplock, using a rough demo piece. Bro custom builds surfboards for Big Wave Surfer Andrew Cotton and the UK’s leading WSL surfer, Peony Knight, as well as other professional surfers. His message is very much one of boards built to individual specifications as a means to reach a high level of performance.

185 likes were posted in response. 60 from identifiable surf industry participants, 36 from media/arts and 10 from fashion. Responses from at least 16 different countries. 14 comments were posted, all positive, so long as you take a comparison to Swarfega as a positive 😉

Diplock Insta

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