The latest fish tag design is streamlined and looks different from earlier tag designs.
CSIRO scientists are using 3D printing to build a new generation of hi-tech fish tags made of titanium. The aim is to use the tags to track big fish such as marlin, tuna, swordfish, trevally and sharks for longer periods.
CSIRO is printing the tags at its 3D printing facility, Lab 22, in Melbourne. The tags are printed overnight and then shipped to Tasmania where marine scientists are trialing them.
Tags are made of titanium for several reasons: the metal is strong, resists the salty corrosiveness of the marine environment, and is biocompatible (non-toxic to living tissues).
One of the advantages of 3D printing is that it enables rapid manufacture of multiple design variations which can then be tested simultaneously. “Using our Arcam 3D printing machine, we’ve been able to re-design and make a series of modified tags within a week,” says John Barnes, who leads CSIRO’s research in titanium technologies.
“When our marine science colleagues asked us to help build a better fish tag, we were able to send them new prototypes before their next trip to sea,” he adds.
CSIRO’s 3D printing facility prints metal items layer by layer out of fused metal powder. Had the scientists been using conventional tags which are machined out of metal blocks, it would have taken a couple of months to design, manufacture and receive the new designs for testing.
“Our early trials showed that the textured surface worked well in improving retention of the tag, but we need to fine-tune the design of the tag tip to make sure that it pierces the fish skin as easily as possible,” says John.
“The fast turnaround speeds up the design process – it’s very easy to incorporate amendments to designs. 3D printing enables very fast testing of new product designs, which why it’s so attractive to manufacturers wanting to trial new products.”
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