In a previous blog I discussed negative ways that 3D printing can be used in the world. To counter that blog I’ll discuss the many positive things that can come from 3D printing. Many of these organizations have an open source philosophy, and you can join or contribute your time or 3D printer to their causes.
The internet is flooded with cute pet videos to distract us from the misery of our day. The “aww” factor is increased when stories come out about a pet receiving 3D printed prosthesis for pets.
With May 23d being World Turtle day, the internet was awash in pictures of turtles. But one story to come out was about Freddie the tortoise. Freddie was caught in a forest fire in Brazil which burned off a 85% of his shell. A volunteer group called Animal Avengers assembled to design and 3D print a new shell for Freddie.
After they printed and fitted the shell, a local artist then came in and painted the shell so it would look more natural.
Despite the tabloid media claims, it is not the first 3D printed turtle shell. In 2015 Cleopatra the turtle received the first 3D printed shell in Colorado. This 3D printed shell was designed to treat the neglect that Cleopatra had suffered from here previous owner.
Other domestic pets have received 3D printed prosthetic limbs. As the price of 3D printers goes down, more pet owners will be able to custom design prosthesis and toys for their pets.
When there is a natural disaster, roads and airports may be cut off from the outside world. Destroyed logistical chains prevent emergency supplies from getting to where they are most needed.
Field Ready is approaching this logistical nightmare in a different way. Using 3D printing, they are manufacturing needed medical equipment on site. In this way they can take rolls of filament and produce a wide range of needed medical devices.
In a previous blog I covered how Field Ready can be impacted by new FDA guidelines.
Field Ready also provides employment after a disaster. Field Ready provides job skills training in CAD and 3D printing to local residence. This job training provides a local resource for recovering communities. It also provides a source of employment for displaced people.
Glia Free Medical Hardware
Medical supplies are expensive around the world. Simple equipment like stethoscope do not have an active patent on them, so anyone can modify them as needed.
But what if anyone could design a medical quality instrument? Inspired by his nephews toy stethoscope, Dr. Tarek Loubani worked on a 3D printable stethoscope that works as well as commercial stethoscope.
By releasing the files open-source, anyone can improve upon the medical devices, or share them with 3D printers in the field.
GFMH is democratizing medicinee. Now medical devices are not only affordable in impoverished countries, but they can be made on-demand in less than a day. Difficult logistical chains are bypassed; and hospitals have the ability to deal with medical emergencies with the appropriate equipment.
For $0.30 in material, you can now 3D print a medical quality stethoscope
Reflow, Trash to filament
The world has a glut of discarded, non-biodegradable plastic. In 3d world countries, tones of recyclable plastic ends up in illegal dumps daily. In India, such dumps are picked over by trash pickers. These people pick trash for recoverable scrap metal, and often burn or discard plastic.
A goal of 3D printing is to recycle all this waste plastic into 3D printable filament. Kickstarter startup Reflow is an organization that is established in Tanzania. By buying the plastic from trash pickers, Reflow provides a more stable source of income to trash pickers. They also provide better pay than sketchy metal dealers that rip the pickers off.
Other countries can improve upon this model by paying to recycle plastic bottles into filament.
Reflow is partnering with Tech For Trade to bring 3D printing to the developing world. Together both organizations hope to make filament production and 3D printing a local boost to developing economies.
This can encourage more recycling efforts for plastic. It can also open up a local source of business, as small companies open to produce locally sourced 3D printing filament to match the demand of local 3D printers.
Tactile Picture Books Project
Tactile Picture Books Project (TPBP) is a project out of the University of Colorado, Boulder. This book project is turning children’s books into tactile versions that blind children can use to learn Braille and read with their parents.
TPBP is working on a template program that will incorporate braille and the tactile pictures so future books can be quickly made. If you want to 3D print you own tactile book, they have posed them in Thingiverse here.
Open Biomedical Initiative
Open Biomedical Initiative (OBI) is another open source medical project like Glia Free Medical Hardware.
OBI is working to develop low-cost medical devices with a heavy emphasis on 3D printing. They have recently made headlines with their new wheelchair design, which is lighter and easier to customize than commercial wheelchairs on the market today.
In the future other projects can come out of OBI to bring affordable 3D printed devices around the world.
TOM: Tikkun Olam Makers
Tikkum Olam means "repairing the world".
This Israeli group of Makers has done a lot of work for people with disabilities, incorporating 3D printing at every stage of development. They have hosted Makeathons for specific challenges, and work around the world to help meet the specific needs of people with disabilities.
No story about the positives of 3D printing would be complete without e-Nable.
This online group had designed affordable prosthetic hands for children around the world. Given that hospital grade prosthesis cost tens of thousands of dollars for a specialist to make, the enable hands are a welcome and affordable alternative. At $50 or less in materials, the enable hands are far more affordable for growing children.
Anyone can volunteer to 3D print a hand, and e-Nable offers a program to ensure that the hand fits a child properly.
With the e-Nable hands, it is also possible to quickly print replacement parts. As the child grows, they can update their hands.