Jan 19, 2017 | By Benedict

Tran Lawrence, a fisherman and self-proclaimed inventor from New Plymouth, New Zealand, has invented a clever 3D printed fishing device to help prevent injury to fish. The plastic ‘Keepa’ fish scoop allows fishers to safely handle fish once caught.

3D printing has been used to benefit people from many lines of work, from industrial engineers to elementary school teachers, and has even been used to benefit animals—mostly pets—in the form of 3D printed leg braces and prosthetic limbs. This, however, might be the first instance we’ve come across that sees 3D printing used to benefit fish: New Zealand fisherman Tran Lawrence has invented a 3D printed fishing device which allows fishers to safely store caught fish without causing them unnecessary harm. Lawrence believes his invention has significant conservation value.

Perhaps we should take a moment before continuing to clarify that, of course, others before Lawrence have used 3D printing in the fishing arena. Take Jeff and Jack Danos for example, the father-and-son duo behind the 3D printed TactiBite Fish Call, a unique fishing aid that emits fish-like sounds from underwater to attract large numbers of various breeds of fish. They used 3D printing to prototype their device, and even managed to wow investors on ABC television show Shark Tank. But while the Fish Call certainly benefits the humans doing the fishing, Lawrence’s 3D printed Keepa helps the fish themselves.

The idea to create the 3D printed fishing “scoop” came to Lawrence as a result of 20 years fishing experience, during which the New Zealander witnessed countless instances of fish struggling in pain after being caught. “Every time you see a fishing show, someone fishing on a pier or on a boat, it's always an issue to handle the fish,” Lawrence explained. “You see the fish struggling, you see the fish beating itself to death.”

With the Keepa, those instances of fish causing themselves unnecessary harm could soon be over. The device works like this: once a fish has been caught, it can be slotted straight into the 3D printed plastic scoop and then turned upside down. In this case, keeping the fish upside down is what keeps it safe, preventing it from beating itself to death and keeping it in a relatively docile state. The hook can then be safely removed, allowing the fish to be returned to the water without injury.

At present, Lawrence has only made one Keepa, his own 3D printed blue version, which he has tested on hundreds of fish and shown to several other fishing buffs. If taken to production, however, the final Keepa device would be transparent, to allow easy inspection of the caught creature. Usefully, the Keepa also functions as a ruler, so fishers can precisely measure the size of their fish before release.

Images: Andy Jackson

Lawrence has big ambitions for the 3D printed Keepa scoop, and hopes to get one into every fishing boat in New Zealand. Interestingly, however, Lawrence knows that his chances of making a profit from the device are slim: "My business mentor straight away said 'Tran, drop it. This isn't going to make you any money.’ I said that I liked the idea because it has conservation value. The market is only going to be New Zealand. You are not going to make lots of money but it has environmental and conservational value.”

But despite being a mostly non-commercial project, Lawrence will still have to raise a lot of money if he hopes to fulfill his ambitions of making the Keepa an essential fisher’s tool. To do this, he is asking fellow fishers to commit to buying the device for 30 NZD through a crowdfunding campaign. If he can raise 100,000 NZD (~72,000 USD), he will be able to start production. “We have a local company that loves the idea, but because of the tooling cost and the unknown outcome about whether people are going to take it up, they are reluctant,” Lawrence said.

Ultimately, Lawrence isn’t looking for fame or fortune, but simply wants to give something back to the oceans that have provided him with a living over the past two decades. If Keepa turns out to be a success, the New Zealand fisherman will be immensely proud: “At least I [could] look back in 20 years time and say ‘that was my innovation—I was part of the solution.’”

Join Lawrence’s PledgeMe campaign if you also want to be part of the solution.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Robin Leech wrote at 1/20/2017 4:03:54 AM:

Fish suffocate long before they could "beat themselves to death". There is no "conservation value" to keeping a fish still. Plus, nobody cares (except this guy). I fillet fish while they're alive. If he made a transparent one that would hold it still while I cut the meat off of it's rib cage and allow me to run water through it to wash the blood off, I'd buy that. Probably a lot of fishermen would. This, not so much.

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