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RopeBot – Digital Fabrication from fishing rope

3D item printed using 100% Huon Aquaculture rope

After many years of experimentation and tinkering, RopeBot has discovered a way to up-cycle discarded rope from fisheries into usable filament for 3D printing. There is an endless range of items that can be 3D printed, from replacement parts for home appliances and vehicles, to brand new products of all imaginable sizes and shapes.

Name of the initiative: RopeBot – Digital Fabrication from fishing rope

Aim of the initiative: To mitigate the problem of plastics. Hundreds of tonnes of plastic are consumed by the fishery industry in Tasmania every year, mostly as rope for cages and pens. Some of this material is sent to mainland Australia for recycling at the end of its life, but the vast majority is discarded as landfill.

Target audience: Students, employees and the community – it is STEM (steAmS) and VET based learning, a viable social (open source) enterprise and helps resolve the plastic problem in our community.

Organisations involved: Huon Aquaculture, Fuji Xerox Tasmania, Digi Labs (TasTAFE) and the City of Hobart.

Lead organisation: Southernstorm Environmental Consultants (by Detour Design)

Organisation mission: To recycle discarded fisheries’ rope into filament for 3D printing also substrates for other digital fabrication opportunities.

Contact: Marcos Gogolin

Status: The initiative will be sustained for as long as fisheries continue to introduce plastics to this pristine Island.

Awards won for the initiative: Hobart City Council Waste Minimization Grant 2015, TasTAFE Excellence Award 2015, TasTAFE DigiLabs Festival of Teaching Guest Speaker, Tasmanian ICT Innovations Award 2016 (iAward), Huon Aquaculture Helping Hand Grant 2016/17, Festival of Bright Ideas (2017 Exhibitor).

More information: RopeBot Facebook page

Educational message: Along with our discoveries of the laws, principles and patterns embedded in STEM (steAmS – with Arts and Sustainability included), we ought to investigate the laws and principles of ethics.

How has your project contributed towards education for sustainability?

  • Developing the theoretical framework for improving the waste plastic recovery process;
  • Designing and testing new technologies that enable higher efficiency conversion of waste plastic into usable filament for 3D printing;
  • Liaising with industrial designers, marketers and product developers to bring upcycled plastic materials into real life products;
  • Developing hands-on demos for local colleges through collaboration with STEM labs;
  • Documenting the research findings for an open source repository to encourage widespread adoption of improved up-cycling methods and technologies.

Description of the education for sustainability initiative

We are working and developing the following knowledge base; know-how and innovations:

  • Ascertaining the scale of the waste problem both locally and abroad – the amounts and types of plastics that come to Tasmania and where they end up (environment, landfill, recycling);
  • The costs to the industry, councils, other businesses, wildlife, the environment and the community due to losses, accidents or dumping of plastic waste;
  • The short and long-term impact of waste plastics entering the environment;
  • Current solutions that are available for processing waste plastic, their costs and their effectiveness;
  • The potential of new Digital Fabrication technologies to make the best use of recovered waste plastic. These technologies include 3D printing, laser cutters, CNC and multi access routers, and automated fabrication robots that are shifting the production and supply chain of manufactured goods;
  • The chemistry of the most common waste materials and their suitability for recycling and up-cycling;
  • Techniques to add value through up-cycling into commercially viable items or into raw materials for other industries;
  • Design and test new technologies that enable higher efficiency conversion of waste plastic into usable filament for 3D printing;
  • Liaise with industrial designers, marketers and product developers to bring upcycled plastic materials into real life products;
  • Develop hands-on demos for local colleges through collaboration with STEM labs;
  • Document the research findings for an open source repository to encourage widespread adoption of improved upcycling methods and technologies.

Key social, cultural, economic or environmental sustainability messages delivered

  • Adding value to used plastics;
  • Best use of new technologies locally (Digital Fabrication – 3D Printing; Laser Cutters; Robotic Arms);
  • New business; research and skills opportunities;
  • The formation of a social (open source) enterprise;
  • Reducing the amount of plastic contaminating the waterways; land and wildlife!

Changes in behaviour achieved (or expected)

  • Recognising the value of used plastics – as a resource;
  • Recognising the value of new technologies and STEM (steAmS) knowledge;
  • Recognising new technologies and business opportunities for the local neds.

Outcomes and measures of success

  • Proof of concept;
  • Extensive media interest;
  • Good business interest and investment/sponsorships;
  • First significant commercial spinoff under development;
  • Local government interest and investment;
  • VET and Colleges interest and investment;
  • Huge educational and STEM (steAmS) potential.

Likelihood that the organisation can sustain the initiative

Since 2015 RopeBot has raised $15,000 towards equipment and general costs; The concept is getting momentum and the next steps to raise funds are:

  • To continue to apply for grants and prizes via excellence awards;
  • To be hired by schools; VET and and various entities on the delivery of workshops;
  • Businesses and other sponsorships.