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The Scale Seat




Wellington, New Zealand



L’affare Innovation in Sustainability Award

The Scale Seat is a tangible output from a master's research portfolio in design innovation at Victoria University of Wellington. The research focused on how used plastic fishing gear could be upcycled through additive manufacturing to create eco-innovative designs and mitigate commercial fishing waste from entering the environment.

An estimated 640,000 tonnes of plastic fishing gear is abandoned, lost or discarded within the marine environment every year. This creates a growing concern as opposed to other plastic debris because discarded fishing equipment is known to drown, suffocate and lacerate marine species even after they are no longer being controlled. Within New Zealand’s own substantial fishing culture also lies this severe plastic problem. With China’s recent waste importing ban and a lack of localised recycling infrastructure, New Zealand’s commercial fishing industry has no other option than to dispose of their plastic fishing gear in landfills. Therefore, the need for a new upcycling initiative that reuses plastic fishing gear within a circular economy is of the utmost importance to solve this problem locally.

The process used to upcycle plastic fishing gear into filament for 3D printing follows an extensive circular cycle. It typically involves collecting different types of used plastic fishing gear and preparing it by sorting and cleaning it by hand, then using an oven to melt it if necessary. The fishing gear is then fed into a shredder and granulated. Next, material combinations are fabricated and poured into an extruding machine to generate a consistent spool of 3D printing filament. Once the filament is produced, 3D printed designs can be created using FDM 3D printers. When scaled up, this circular initiative could provide the commercial fishing industry with a responsible recycling scheme for their used equipment and more marine waste could be mitigated from entering the environment.

The Scale Seat is an example of this circular upcycling initiative. For the design, used buoys from New Zealand’s commercial fishing industry ‘Sanford’ were processed into 3D printing filament. The use of this material within a curvacious and thick-walled chair resulted in a sturdy and accurate 3D printed model. The material's black tones create a modernised piece of furniture that could fit into a range of environments. Whereas, its glossy finish intensifies the fish scale texture when light gradually accentuates individual areas on the seat's surface. Hollow areas within the seat were designed to ensure fast production, while the steep curve on the underside of the chair was added to act as a form of structural integrity. Additionally, the steep curve also visually communicates the origin of the material by subtly embracing the shape of a fish fin within the negative space.

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