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Gone fishing: FinMan leverages Carbon 3D printing for production

This next consumer AM case study is a fishy one—literally. FinMan Fishing Innovations, a Michigan-based fishing equipment company has brought to market a multi-function fishing tool made with the support of Carbon’s Digital Light Synthesis technology. The product, described as “the Swiss Army knife” of fishing, integrates several functions into a single, unmoldable structure.

Though I admittedly am not a specialist in the sport of fishing, I do know a thing or two about 3D printing, including that it can be used to create wholly new designs to achieve optimal product performance. The FinMan case study is not only a perfect example of this capability; it also showcases that AM—in this case Carbon’s technology—is viable for scalable production.

FinMan Fishing Innovations came onto the market in 2019 with the FinMan fishing tool, a product intended to be “your wingman on the water.” Designed to be attached to a fishing rod or worn on a lanyard, the FinMan fulfills multiple functions. The small, rather unassuming part, has the functionality of scissors, nippers and a knife, allowing anglers to slice, snip and stow their tackle with ease.

FinMan Carbon 3D printed tool

When designing the part, FinMan Fishing Innovations created a tool its founder felt was missing from his own gear. When it came time for manufacturing, however, the company was told that to use injection molding it would need to redesign and simplify the part. Unwilling to compromise on the part’s functionality and performance, the FinMan team turned to Gallagher Corporation, a certified member of the Carbon Production Network, to find a suitable process for their manufacturing needs.

Carbon’s DLS 3D printing platform was ultimately chosen for its ability to meet FinMan’s aesthetic and functional standards. It was also a top contender because of its scalability. The FinMan device itself is fairly complex. Its structure includes precise feature, undercuts, thru holes and surface textures. To withstand demanding use, the product also needed to be strong, flexible and tough.

Carbon’s 3D printing technology was able to manufacture FinMan’s complex structure and the company’s RPU 70 material, a rigid polyurethane, met the product’s material requirements. To improve the product even more, FinMan Fishing and Gallagher integrated a scale-like surface texture to improve the tool’s grip.

In the production process, Carbon’s AM platform was used for both prototyping a production. “With Gallagher, we turned around several iterations of prototypes in a matter of weeks – something that would’ve been impossible with traditional manufacturing methods such as injection molding,” said Gage Cutler, Founder of FinMan Fishing Innovations. “On top of that, Gallagher met my aggressive production timeline at a competitive price.”

Ultimately, 3D printing enabled FinMan to bring to market the product it envisioned, without having to compromise the tool’s function or aesthetic. Going forward, the company is keen to keep working with Carbon’s DLS technology because of its flexibility, which will enable it to further improve its product or develop other designs.

“An advantage of using the Carbon DMP for production is that we can dynamically respond to customer feedback with quick changes,” Cutler added. “There’s no physical tooling. I’m not trapped by an upfront investment or long lead times like I would’ve felt with injection molding.”

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Tess Boissonneault

Tess Boissonneault is a Montreal-based content writer and editor with five years of experience covering the additive manufacturing world. She has a particular interest in amplifying the voices of women working within the industry and is an avid follower of the ever-evolving AM sector. Tess holds a master's degree in Media Studies from the University of Amsterdam.

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