Forget houses on the moon, our scientists are using 3D printing to build better fish tags. We use tags to track the movements of fish including Tuna, Marlin and some sharks.

The tags are inserted beneath the skin of the fish, or clipped through a fin, just like a body piercing. Using our shiny new 3D printing machine, we are able to feed in designs and print them overnight.

And just like a human body piercing, the tags are made of biocompatible titanium – the metal of choice for dental and medical implants – because living tissues do not reject it.

Why would we print fish tags? The main reasons is because it allows us to rapidly develop new designs.

Titanium fish tags

Taking off – the latest fishy fashion item

“Our designers can provide turnaround within a week, from new design idea to a testable prototype, using our 3D printing facility,’ said John Barnes, who leads CSIRO 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.”

Had the scientists been using conventionally made machined tags, manufacturing and delivery of the new tags would have required weeks, before the new designs could be tested.

While we’re doing this with fish tags, 3D printing offers the same advantages to a manufacturer who wants to test and optimise a new product design.

John talks about how 3D printing speeds up the re-design process in the video, below.

So if CSIRO’s new designs for fish tags take off, it’s only a matter of time before fishes world-wide sport  Australian-designed piercings for the sake of science. You can view tracks of selected marine animals tagged by CSIRO and partner agencies on the CSIRO Ocean Tracks website.

Access this video transcript here.