Line to Loop (2020)

Line to Loop (2020)

Matthew O’Hagan

A Circular 3D Printing Initiative for Upcycling Commercial Fishing Plastics

The current linear use of plastic products follows a take, make and waste process. This process results in approximately 8 million tonnes of plastic entering the ocean every year. While the fishing industry supplies livelihoods, a valuable food source and financial capital to millions of people worldwide, it’s also a significant contributor to the ocean plastics crisis. An estimated 640,000 tonnes of plastic fishing gear is abandoned, lost or discarded within the ocean every year. China’s waste import ban, and the lack of local recycling infrastructures, has resulted in large stockpiles of used plastic fishing gear at different sites in New Zealand. With the only other option for the plastic fishing gear being landfill, there is a critical need for circular initiatives that upcycle this unused resource locally into eco-innovative designs.

This Master of Design Innovation research examines the issue by investigating how used buoys, aquaculture ropes, and fishing nets from New Zealand’s fishing company ‘Sanford’ may be upcycled into eco-innovative designs through distributed manufacturing technologies. It introduces the idea of the circular economy, where plastic fishing gear can be reused within a technical cycle and explores how 3D printing could be part of the solution as it provides local initiatives, low material and energy usage and customization.The research included an intensive hands-on exploration of processing and formulating filaments, including a novel oven melting process which enabled the granulation of aquaculture ropes and fishing nets.

This formed the basis for developing a series of 3 conceptual eco-innovative designs. Each design proposal focused on applications that maintain a connection to ocean-based activities like creating water sports equipment, public furniture for coastal settings and protecting or enhancing coastal ecosystems.The tangible outputs of this research provide options for new and more sustainable waste management schemes that could be applied to a range of plastic waste streams and diverts materials from entering the environment by continuously reusing them within the economy.

Materials and Processes – close-up


CAD modelling software – Rhino, Grasshopper plug-in and Fusion 360.

Slicing software – Cura and Simplify3D.


3D printers – UP BOX, Ultimaker 3 extended and the BigRep.

Main upcycling equipment – Contherm Thermotec 2000, Conair 8 series granulator and Thermo Scientific Process 11 twin-screw extruder, spooler and palletiser.

 Project level

Master of Design Innovation Research Portfolio submission (MDI), supervisors Simon Fraser and Jeongbin Ok

External Partners

The project was supported by Sandford Ltd. and the New Zealand Product Accelerator.  

ECC NZ Student Craft/Design Category Winner

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