3D printed homesAn important part of fighting global poverty is providing people a safe place to live. 3D printed homes offers a new solution, as this new method allows for fast and cheap mass-production of affordable housing.

What is the Current Demand for Affordable Housing?

Before the pandemic, approximately 2% of the world’s population was classified as homeless. In addition, over 20% of the world’s population lacked adequate housing. Demographic trends point to an acceleration in population growth worldwide, coupled with the decline of average household size, the global need for affordable housing is increasing rapidly.

The UN estimates—with ‘medium growth’—the world’s population will reach over 11 billion people by the end of this century. Furthermore, environmental instances have displaced millions of people around the world, make it harder to live in some places. The need for affordable housing is clear, however, new 3D printing homes could be the answer to producing quality affordable housing around the world.

What does 3D Printed Housing Offer?

Compared to traditional housing methods, 3D printing is faster and cheaper. Moreover, 3D printing offers environmental benefits. By limiting construction and waste the method is carbon neutral or even negative. With millions of people living in poorly constructed homes made with scrap metal and dirt floors, 3D printed homes promise a safer and better-quality living environment. Living in slum housing can not only make it harder to succeed in school or at work, but the dangerous living conditions can present physical health risks.

3D printed homes are made to last. 3D printing creates a hybrid concrete mortar that hardens while printing. As a result, the tool can mass-produce ‘housing kits’ with the structures needed to build a home.

Current 3D Printing Examples

In the city of Chennai, India, the country is seeing its first 3D printed homes thanks to NGO Tvasta. “Traditional construction is tedious and time-consuming. People are increasingly getting left out as affordability is limited, or settling for low-quality homes,” said Adithya Jain, the company’s CEO. They built the first house in five days. Additionally, they used 30% less of the budget than planned and produced less environmental waste in the process.

In El Salvador, an American company ICON has successfully replaced slums with 3D-printed housing. They have designed a 350-square foot home which was assembled in approximately two days. “Something that sounds like science fiction is real… This is meant to be long-term sustainable housing,” said Jason Ballard the co-founder of ICON.

3D Printing’s Promising Future

As the demand for affordable housing continues to increase, there will be a need to invest in technology that allows us to keep up with the demand, giving everyone the opportunity to live in safe and quality housing. 3D printed homes have the potential to help end global poverty and the worldwide housing crisis.

– Alex Muckenfuss
Photo: Flickr

Prosthetic Innovation Gives a Hand to African Amputees
A McKinsey report states that prosthetic innovation will improve global health by 2040. Innovative 3D-printed, robotic prosthetic limbs provide African amputees with an affordable and high-quality alternative in comparison to conventional prostheses.

The most common prostheses are artificial limbs. Only a small fraction of amputees living in low and middle-income countries have access to suitable prosthetic services. Thus, prosthetic innovation is particularly important in impoverished areas.

In 2017, there were 16 million amputees in Africa, making up 24.6% of global amputees. Expectations have determined that these numbers will increase due to a rise in illnesses and diseases.  Furthermore, deteriorating roads and increased urbanization will lead to more traffic accidents.

Devastating Effects of Losing a Limb

It is difficult for amputees to work and prosper without proper medical assistance. Additionally, amputees are more vulnerable to accidents, infections, diabetes, poor medical care and injury due to war or natural disasters. Furthermore, prostheses and rehabilitation services typically cost thousands of dollars. In many lower-income communities, prostheses are simply unaffordable.

Amputees are unable to use poorly fitted prostheses due to pain. Specially trained prosthetists need to assess patients before fitting them. Also, patients need to visit a clinic several times for physical therapy before effectively using prosthetic limbs.

Providing Prosthetic Services

Governments in lower-income nations do not invest in prosthetics due to the lack of data and economic benefit. International and local NGOs provide most prosthetic services in impoverished countries. Without government and donor support in prosthetic innovation, access to these services will remain low.

The 3D Revolution in Prosthetics

Within the last decade, 3D printing has entered the prostheses market in Africa. Now, 3D designs are free, editable and available online for beginners to maneuver. Furthermore, a 3D-printed hand costs around $50. In recent years, the World Health Organization (WHO), governments and other organizations have spurred prosthetic innovation throughout Africa.

Nigerian Tech Lovers Launch 3D Lab for Victims of Violence

Muhammed Jafar is a 25-year-old member of a vigilante group in northeastern Nigeria. He lost his left hand while helping rescue a teenager who a gang had kidnapped. Now he is working as a tailor with a 3D-printed prosthetic arm he received from the Northeastern Humanitarian and Innovation Lab. The Nigerian government helped a group of tech enthusiasts launch a tech hub in 2018. Furthermore, the Northeastern Humanitarian and Innovation Lab print limbs and add robotics to improve functionality. Also, the cost of the 3D limbs is significantly less than conventionally manufactured prostheses. The Northeastern Humanitarian and Innovation Lab is a great example of how government investment in local volunteer groups can change the lives of those in need.

South African Post-Grads Launch Robotic Prosthetics Company

In 2017, Drew Van der Riet created the world’s most advanced low-cost “Touch Hand” prosthetic hand with his engineering team. This new prosthetic hand provides unique sensory feedback so that users can pick up delicate and irregular objects. Van Der Riet was shocked to discover that most hand amputees had to use basic “claws.” Furthermore, robotic hands similar to the “Touch Hand” are 10 times more expensive.

Van der Riet launched Touch Prosthetics in Durban in an attempt to keep prosthetic innovation on top. Additionally, the organization aims to develop simple, affordable upgrades for amputees. Fortunately, Touch Prosthetics was able to secure government and business support and has already developed Touch Hand II. However, Van der Riet notes that often strong university projects do not make it to market due to a lack of capital and marketing savvy.

As the Northeast Humanitarian and Innovation Lab in Nigeria and Touch Prosthetics in South Africa exemplified, the 3D revolution has inspired African prosthetic innovation to improve the lives of amputees. By amplifying aid for these efforts, more African amputees will be able to support themselves with ease.

– Shelly Saltzman
Photo: Flickr

Cure BionicsCure Bionics, a startup company based in Tunisia, is finalizing its design for a prosthetic hand using 3D-printed components. Priced at $2,000, the model will cost significantly less than the bionic limbs typically imported from Europe. Cure Bionics could transform the lives of many Tunisians in need of prosthetic limbs to improve their quality of life.

Disabilities in Tunisia

Although not much data is available for limb differences in Africa, the 2002-2004 World Health Survey declared that 16.3 of Tunisia’s population possessed some sort of disability.

Although the country has passed groundbreaking legislation prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities, prejudice still hinders Tunisians with disabilities from fully participating in social settings. Moreover, people with disabilities often find voting difficult due to a lack of appropriate accommodations and many struggle to find good employment. Past research indicated that nearly 60% of Tunisians with disabilities did not earn any individual income, and the 40% who did work, earned 40% less than people without disabilities.

Social, political and economic exclusion means, broadly speaking, that Tunisians with disabilities are more acutely impacted by multidimensional poverty than Tunisians without disabilities. In turn, this has led to disparities in education, health and employment. The social exclusion of people with disabilities has a considerable cost in terms of quality of life with a life expectancy reduction of approximately 18 years.

Cure Bionics

Cure Bionics hopes to improve the lives of disabled people in Tunisia by making high-tech bionic limbs more accessible and affordable for the people who need them.

When the company’s founder, Mohamed Dhaouafi, was studying engineering at university, he began to research prosthetics after learning that one of his peers had a relative who was born without upper limbs and could not afford prosthetics. Dhaouafi quickly discovered that this is not uncommon: Of the approximately 30 million people in developing countries who have amputated limbs, only 1.5 million can obtain prosthetics.

After graduating from university, Dhaouafi continued to work on the prosthetic device he had begun designing in school. Today, Cure Bionics’ 3D-printed bionic hands have rotating wrists, a mechanical thumb and fingers that bend at the joints in response to the electronic impulses. The bionic hand can be adjusted to accommodate a child’s physical growth. It can also be solar-powered for use in regions without a reliable electricity supply. Since young people with limb differences require multiple prostheses as they age, Cure Bionics’ cost-effective approach could help to ensure that more children benefit from prosthetic limbs earlier in life.

Moreover, Dhaouafi hopes to offer a virtual-reality headset for physical therapy sessions. Geared especially toward children, the headset will allow recipients of bionic limbs to become familiar with their prosthetics and to practice moving and flexing their fingers in the fun and exciting context of a video game.

Looking to the Future

While Cure Bionics continues to finalize and test its bionic hand before making it available for purchase in Tunisia, Dhaouafi has already set himself another goal. He wants to offer high-tech, low-cost prosthetic limbs to people with limb differences throughout Africa, the Middle East and beyond.

Selected by the Obama Foundation Leaders: Africa program in 2019, Dhaouafi is helping to increase access to bionic prosthetics for people who could not otherwise have afforded the expense. In this way, he is also helping Tunisians with limb disabilities to overcome the formidable challenges of exclusion and escape multidimensional poverty,  improving their quality of life overall.

Angie Grigsby
Photo: Flickr

3d printed prostheticsGuillermo Martinez is an industrial engineer from Madrid, Spain, who saw a need for upper extremity prosthetics in poverty-ridden communities. His journey began in 2017 with an investment in a small-scale 3D printer in Spain. Martinez learned how to use the printer with robotics and device-building videos, but he quickly stumbled upon a tutorial for a one-hand prosthesis. The prototype he created as a result sparked an interest in producing prosthetics for those in need, especially once he realized that the 3D-printed prosthetics cost just $50 to produce.

3D-Printed Prosthetics from Madrid

When he’d successfully produced a functional prosthetic arm, Martinez took a trip to the Bamba Project orphanage in Kenya. The World Bank noted that as of 2016, 35.6% of the population in Kenya lives on less than $1.90 per day. Martinez saw an unmet need for Kenyans who could not afford a prosthesis. With this new self-taught skill, he asked for volunteers to notify him of impoverished people who needed upper extremity prosthetics. The pictures that he received in response guided the 3D-printed prosthetics he made for orphans and the impoverished in Kenya.

Martinez relied on trial and error to produce functional prosthetics with low-cost materials. He utilized a combination of plastic, high-tension wires and rubber bands to produce a functional product. Each prototype only weighs about 10 kilograms and is completely collapsible for ease of transport. But Martinez began to investigate if it was possible to 3D print locally in impoverished communities instead of transporting the prosthetics. Seeing conditions in developing countries, Martinez recognized a slew of obstacles in his way, from a lack of education and unpredictable power outages. However, these obstacles did not deter Martinez from beginning the nonprofit organization AYUDAME3D.

AYUDAME3D

AYUDAME3D is a fairly new nonprofit organization that began with the hard work of just four members and has gained over 60 volunteers globally. Its goal remains to produce 3D-printed prosthetics for people in need. So far, AYUDAME3D has produced more than 250 prosthetic arms in more than 40 countries. The majority of requests originally came in via email, social media or connections with NGOs. But the organization understood that it needed to use the media, social media and partnerships with other nonprofits to reach a wider range of communities.

Additionally, AYUDAME3D provides a centralized space for volunteers and impoverished communities to have direct contact with the organization. This allows it to disseminate information about the guides for shoulder, elbow and wrist prosthetics. Furthermore, the organization’s online form allows people to expand on limb specifications and provide visuals as needed. It also lets NGOs explore a possible partnership with AYUDAME3D. Finally, the NGO is growing its impact with a 3D printing curriculum for in schools in impoverished communities.

The Impact of 3D-Printed Prosthetics

These 3D-printed prosthetics from Madrid have had a profound impact on those missing upper extremity limbs. Robert from Kenya is one of many who stood to benefit from a prosthesis, having only one arm. Martinez printed a prosthetic in multiple pieces and brought it to Kenya to test its fit for Robert. Since this was one of Martinez’s first prosthetics, he had to adapt his process while learning about muscular weakness and other factors in Robert’s community. But this learning curve has created a well-established process at AYUDAME3D that is constantly adapting to new prosthetic situations.

AYUDAME3D also provided a helping hand when the coronavirus pandemic hit Spain. When the government declared personal protective equipment emergencies, the organization received a flood of requests for 3D-printed face shields. Accordingly, the nonprofit switched from printing prosthetics to personal protective equipment. So far, AYUDAME3D has distributed 9,115 face shields to over 150 organizations.

In an interview with Business Insider Espana, Guillermo Martinez expressed that 3D printing prosthetics started as a fun idea that developed into a way for him to help impoverished communities. Martinez didn’t believe that he would find a large number of people needing upper extremity prosthetics, but he discovered that many Kenyans sought them when he arrived.  To meet this need, AYUDAME3D continues to produce 3D-printed prosthetics for impoverished communities worldwide.

– Sumeet Waraich
Photo: Flickr

health technologies for developing countriesIn recent years, there have been numerous innovations in medicine and new health technologies for developing countries. These technologies target a large variety of issues including medical testing, identifying safe drinking water, filtering dirty water and decreasing infant and maternal mortality rates. Some innovations that have had a significant impact on global health and show potential for future interventions include Hemafuse, Embrace Warmers, 3D printing in medicine and SMS services to identify counterfeit medicine in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Hemafuse

The Hemafuse is a recent example of new health technologies for developing countries. Autotransfusion is a medical procedure that recycles a patient’s blood back into their system. This practice can be extremely useful when there is no donor or matching blood type in injuries with large volumes of blood loss or internal bleedings. Blood transfusions are necessary for many medical situations. A significant number of maternal deaths in developing countries result from blood loss. Medics in Sub-Saharan Africa often use an extremely unsanitary technique of blood transfusion that involves a kitchen soup ladle because of the lack of alternatives. Before being reinfused into the patient’s system, the blood is filtered using gauze.

Sisu Global Health developed the Hemafuse for women with ruptured ectopic pregnancies to prevent life-threatening internal bleeding. The handheld device recovers blood from internal bleeds, filters out clots and impurities and reinfuses it the patient. Sisu Global Health is hoping to expand its design and impact 14 million lives. The device is easy to use and has the potential to decrease maternal mortality rates in developing countries. This is because it is sterile and does not require donor blood.

Embrace Warmers

The Embrace warmer is one of the health technologies for developing countries created to help newborns. The warmers were designed as portable incubators and warmers for newborns who are born premature or are lacking body fat. Lack of electricity and heating in hospitals can lead to complications such as neonatal hypothermia for newborns in developing countries. Jane Chen designed Embrace warmers at Stanford University and the device costs less than 1% of what regular incubators cost. More than 300,000 newborns in 22 countries benefitted from Embrace warmers. Organizations around the world have recognized this innovation, as well as influential people including Beyoncé and Barack Obama.

3D Printing for Developing Countries 

3D printing technology has resulted in huge advances in medicine. Specifically, 3D printing as a form of health technology for developing countries can help improve access to medical supplies. Developing prosthetics, setting up field hospitals and creating medical devices are all ways in which 3D printing can improve healthcare in developing countries.

Around the world, 80% of individuals who need prosthetics don’t have access to them. The e-NABLING the Future project is a network of volunteers who bring affordable 3D printing designs for hands and arms to those in need. There are many people in the developing world who have lost fingers or hands to war, natural disasters or disease. Through the 3D printing of prosthetics, these individuals have the opportunity to regain the use of their hands and fingers.

Doctors Without Borders has been looking into how 3D printing could be used for field hospital setups. Additionally, 3D printing allows for medical supplies to be produced directly in developing countries instead of being imported. This process can help spark medical development in poor areas instead of relying on products from other countries. Medical supplies produced by 3D printers include water testing kits that test for bacteria to determine if the water is safe for drinking and lab-in-a-box kits that are solar-powered and test for various diseases.

SMS Texting for Fake Drugs

Another increasingly pressing health issue is counterfeit medicine in sub-Saharan Africa. It is difficult to know exactly how many counterfeit drugs are circulating because the market is underground. However, there have been many counterfeit drug seizures in recent years. One out of every 10 medical drugs in all developing countries, and therefore most of Africa, is counterfeit or not standardized according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The WHO also estimates that counterfeit medicine causes 116,000 deaths annually in Sub-Saharan Africa, costing $38.5 million every year.

While there needs to be structural reform to address the issue, a company founded in 2009 by Bright Simons from Ghana has developed a text messaging system so that users can verify whether the drugs they have are legitimate. The company has since grown and has helped more than 100 million individuals. Users must scan the drug’s barcode with their phone camera or text a code from the drug’s label to a hotline for verification.

Many exciting health technologies for developing countries have been introduced in recent years. These innovations can be extremely effective and have the potential to tackle global health issues, but proper access remains an issue. Simply developing these technologies does not ensure that underserved communities have access to them. Some of the most common issues regarding access are affordability, low supply and low production. This is due to the underestimation of the demand for products in developing countries. Developing access plans that take into account all of the social, economic and cultural barriers to access is crucial to ensure that these innovations can make an impact on global health in developing countries.

Maia Cullen
Photo: Flickr

3D Printed Prosthetics Can Change the Developing World
In developing nations around the world, communities experience congenital disabilities and accidents, just like in the developed world. In impoverished countries, however, the ability to access prosthetics is uncommon, if not nonexistent. If impoverished nations were able to obtain inexpensive prosthetics, it would change their lives. Fortunately, scientists and inventors alike are working out the situation. This is why 3D printed prosthetics could change the developing world.

The Problem

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that approximately 30 million people worldwide need prosthetics or various orthotic devices. The lack of access leaves a whole array of issues for people. According to Access Prosthetics, 30 percent of amputees and congenital amputees experience depression and/or anxiety. These 3D printed prosthetics can change the developing world, making it easier for disabled individuals to perform necessary actions and increasing their quality of life.

In poverty-stricken nations, people face a dangerous threat: explosives. The Guardian told the story of one boy who Sudanese soldiers kidnapped and forced to fight. One day, the boy stepped on a mine and the mere force of the impact was strong enough to tear his foot from his leg. From that day forward, the child used a wheelchair and a prosthetic leg. Unfortunately, too many people experience what this child suffered. This child was lucky that the Kenyan Red Cross organization was able to produce a prosthetic limb for the child, but unfortunately, many people cannot receive such care.

Why 3D Printed Prosthetics?

Along with the emotional hindrances and physical limitations, 3D prosthetics are a much better option than traditional prosthetics. Traditional prosthetics comprise of metal, plastic and other materials, and cost between $5,000 to $50,000. Reaching the price of a luxury car, many families cannot afford traditional prosthetics. Traditional prosthetics typically take upwards of three weeks to reach their recipient, which includes production and fitting. The long wait time only puts the recipient in a worse position because sometimes these prosthetics are life-saving.

These 3D printed prosthetics, however, could fix this issue. Typically, producers can make 3D printed prosthetics within a single day at a shocking $50. With a drastically low upfront cost and production time, these are essential to why 3D printed prosthetics can change the developing world. Thanks to incredible advancements in the industry, it is not an if, but rather when 3D prosthetics will reach developing nations on a mass scale.

Enabling the Future

Enabling the Future is a humanitarian organization that consists of volunteers who use 3D printers to produce prosthetics for free. The network makes it explicitly clear that it is not a company and does not sell the prosthetics. With over 3,300 3D printer volunteers, the organization helps thousands of people around the world. Enabling the Future has run into durability issues in its past because volunteers print the products rather than professionals. However, they still offer some of the cheapest and quickly made prosthetics. After Enabling the Future first noted the problem, it decided to offer a different material to make the prosthetics. This material is much stronger but costs up to $2,000.

With an enormous team of 3,300, Enabling the Future is at the forefront of the production of 3D prosthetics. This organization is able to provide cheap prosthetics to people worldwide and at a much faster rate than many other organizations can. Companies such as Enabling the Future are critical to the success of equipping developing nations with 3D prosthetics.

The Impact

The capability for amputees to access inexpensive prosthetics will change the world. The ability to carry items or run may seem simple, but the reality is that most take these actions for granted. People with missing limbs can now perform actions that were once challenging, effortlessly. In the developed world, $50,000 is an extremely steep investment but can make a large impact in impoverished countries.

In developing, war-torn nations, many share the same story as that of the boy mentioned above. Too many people die from such instances and many more lose limbs. Thankfully, thanks to 3D prosthetics, the world should change for the better.

Cleveland Lewis
Photo: Flickr

3D Printing in Impoverished Nations
3D printing is a technology that has existed since the 1980s. Over time, additive technology has increasingly progressed where various medical applications can use it. 3D printing in impoverished nations has several benefits specifically in medicine and medical services relating to the affordability for the general populous of these nations. 3D printing for medical applications is the process of utilizing a digital blueprint or digital model, slicing the model into manageable bits and then reconstructing it with various types of materials, typically plastic. Here are three examples of 3D printing in impoverished nations.

3 Examples of 3D Printing in Impoverished Nations

  1. Custom Surgical Elements: The use of 3D printing has significantly increased in the manufacturing of customized surgical elements, such as splints. Manufacturers can make these devices and components quickly at a relatively low cost, which would greatly reduce the price of sale to the consumer. The reason for the reduced cost of production compared to conventional manufacturing systems is primarily due to the additive nature of 3D printing. For example, 3D printing actually adds material onto each layer, rather than subtracting (cutting/slicing) and combining material. This results in smaller opportunities for error to occur and the wasting of fewer materials in the long run.
  2. 3D Printed Organs: Many know this particular field of 3D medical printing as bioprinting. According to The Smithsonian Magazine, bioprinting involves integrating human cells from the organ recipient into the “scaffolding” of the 3D printed organ. The scaffolding acts as the skeleton of the organ and the cells will grow and duplicate to support physiological function. Although this particular method is still in the experimental stages, there have been successful procedures performed in the past. Researchers at Wake Forest have found an effective method for bioprinting human organs; they have successfully implanted and grown skin, ears, bone, and muscle in lab animals. Further, scientists at Princeton University have 3D printed a bionic ear that can detect various frequencies, different than a biological, human ear. The researchers behind the creation of this bionic ear theorized that they could use a similar procedure for internal organs. Similar to surgical components, 3D printed organs would greatly reduce the cost of organ transplants. Additionally, it would increase the availability of organs, which are nearly impossible to find. Locating an appropriate match within a specific proximity of the patient has resulted in a global organ shortage. Whilst some have presented a solution in the form of international organ trade, WHO states that international organ trade could provide a significant health concern because of the lengthy trips the organs would experience. 3D printed organs may be a sustainable method to help impoverished nations with supply organs quickly and cheaply.
  3. Prosthetics: 3D printing in impoverished nations could also allow people to print custom prosthetics for those in need. The lack of access to current prosthetics creates a lot of obstacles for people living in impoverished nations. Creating prosthetics with 3D printing technology has the potential to provide a person the ability to accomplish basic, daily tasks in order to support a family. Not only are current prosthetics expensive, but they are also often inconvenient or they prohibit natural motion. For example, Cambodia treats a prosthetic hand as a cosmetic item, leading the majority of the population to refuse the prosthetic due to the lack of functionality. The Victoria Hand project is currently attempting to change this perspective by providing functional, 3D printed prosthetic hands to Cambodia and Nepal. The team has performed user trials, where the aim is to distribute the 3D printed hand to the general populace. Subsequently, the design will go to multiple fabrication services to maximize accessibility.

These three examples of 3D printing in impoverished nations show just how important 3D printing is and will continue to be to aiding those in need. With further development, 3D printing should allow people to receive prosthetics and organ transplants more easily.

– Jacob Creswell
Photo: Wikimedia

3D Printed Houses in Mexico
Tabasco, Mexico, a state located in the southeast of the country, hosts a population of over 2.5 million people, and more than half of the population lives in rural areas. As with many poverty-stricken countries, struggles with poverty hit the rural areas of southern Mexico disproportionally hard. While residents of Tabasco report among the highest levels of life satisfaction, unemployment and poverty create undue challenges, especially in rural populations. Luckily, 3D printed houses in Mexico are providing residents of Tabasco with affordable homes.

Living in Tabasco, Mexico

Tabasco first became a state in 1824 and now consists of different governmental areas called municipios. The region experiences a rainy season, in which the land is subject to flooding due to its mostly low and flat relief. Heavy rains and floods can be particularly devastating for those living in poverty in Tabasco. Oftentimes, residents who cannot afford to purchase housing will craft their own out of wood, metal and other scavenged or purchased material. When heavy rains come, these homes can flood drastically, sometimes for months at a time.

A New Look at Affordable Housing

In December 2019, the struggle for affordable, safe and durable housing took an innovative turn in one neighborhood in Tabasco where residents live on an average of $3 a day. Developers have begun using a large-scale 3D printer to build houses for residents in the neighborhood, planning to complete the construction of 50 new homes by the end of 2020. The prospect of these 3D printed houses in Mexico has numerous implications for Tabascan residents and the fight for affordable housing at large.

These massive printers emit a sturdy concrete that one can layer into a wall, with the complete simultaneous construction of two homes taking only 24 working hours. The homes feature 500 square-feet of living space, with two bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen and a living area.

The Organizations

The three foundations that are collaborating to make these 3D printed houses in Mexico a reality are ICON, a construction technology company; New Story, a San Francisco-based nonprofit; and ÉCHALE, a Mexican nonprofit.

ICON focuses on revolutionizing the construction of homes, utilizing printers, robotics and other technology tools to contribute to efforts surrounding affordable housing construction. ICON developed its first commercially available construction printer, called the Vulcan II, in 2018.

ÉCHALE saw its beginnings in 1985 and has since become a successful organization that works for social housing and community development in Mexico. ÉCHALE focuses on the main sustainable development goals for 2030, including ending poverty, promoting gender equality and responsible consumption and production.

Founded in 2014, New Story aids families in need of housing and shelter. Since then, New Story has built over 2,700 homes using traditional construction methods in Haiti, El Salvador, Bolivia and Mexico. ICON and New Story first collaborated on a 3D printed home in Austin, Texas in March 2018.

Most importantly, these three organizations that are creating 3D printed houses in Mexico have worked with residents of the Tabascan neighborhood every step of the way. They hired local construction workers to complete aspects of building such as land clearing and installing windows and roofs, ensuring that printing homes do not take jobs away from residents. The design of the homes also came from a collaboration with the very same residents that will live in them, ensuring that these houses will meet the specific needs of the community. This type of community involvement is critical for the long-term success of affordable housing programs, and one that can serve as a model for future technology-based affordable housing solutions.

Elizabeth Baker
Photo: Flickr

Equal Food Distribution
One of the leading causes of malnutrition is the lack of equal food distribution. According to the World Economic Forum, Americans spend 6.4 percent of their income on food. Meanwhile, households in impoverished countries can spend up to 80 percent of their income on food. These numbers show a clear uneven trend in distributing food to people in need. Equal food distribution is also at risk from another influencer on poverty: population growth. Even in developed countries, the current rate of food distribution will eventually be unable to keep up with population growth. Distributing food to people in need will soon become an issue for not just underdeveloped countries, but for developed countries as well. 

One way of solving the growing issue of food distribution is through the utilization of new technologies. A combination of developing technologies, new economic models and support from global leaders could lead to curbing the problems behind food distribution for both the developing and underdeveloped world.

Text Message-based Farmer Assistance

In Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia, farmers have access to a service that functions through text messages. Provided by CGIAR, an organization focused on water, land and ecosystems, farmers can send a message through SMS (short message service) to request updates on the best way to grow their crops. People know this service as ICT, or Information and Communication Technology. According to CGIAR, farmers send one message code when they want to see an update on their crop growth and water-use efficiency compared to other farmers using the service. Based on this data, experts monitoring the farming data can identify irregularities and alert the farmer. One issue that CGIAR sees going forward is funding. Maintaining its database would require more funding than what farmers or smallholders have already offered. However, this service would be able to help farmers, in areas of need, increase the amount their farms produce.

Using ICTs to help feed people in need has shown promising results. An ICT service will help improve irrigation and water drainage in Egypt. This service has seen a 25 percent increase in crop yields during its first phase of implementation. Magrabi Farms has also implemented ICT to allow the proper irrigation of over 8,000 acres of land.

Farming and Machine Learning

Increasing farm production is a common method of tackling the issue of distributing food to people in need. Sciforce says that almost every step of farm production uses machine learning. Machine learning, according to Sciforce, is “the scientific field that gives machines the ability to learn without being strictly programmed.” Farmers can use machine learning to:

  • Find which genes would help a crop survive in adverse weather conditions.

  • Manage the soil and help farmers understand the ecosystem they are growing in.

  • Manage water and allow farmers to be more efficient with their irrigation systems.

  • Improve the prediction of crop yield.

  • Fight disease and weeds by using a calculated distribution of agrochemicals that only target specific plants.

Machine learning accomplishes all of this by analyzing decades of farming records. It uses a combination of algorithms and scientific models to best apply the trends from decades of farming data.

NBC News reported that Carnegie Mellon University roboticist George Kantor claimed that machine learning could increase the variety of grain sorghum from 100 different variants to 1,000. Machine learning could do this by examining the crop’s genetic code.

Weather Forecasts

Another way to ensure that countries are able to distribute food to people in need is by improving distribution itself. The Weather Company’s Agricultural Head, Carrie Gillespie, stated that “A lot of food waste happens during distribution…” Suppliers often use weather forecasts when distributing food to people in need. Due to distribution including the harvesting process, these weather reports can help farmers know when the soil is at its best for harvesting.

3D Printing

While this may seem like an idea from a sci-fi movie, 3D printing is a technology that may soon allow food printing. Jordan French, CEO at a 3D food printing startup called BeeHex, explains that 3D food printing could allow for customization of food products based on the certain wants and needs of the consumer. This could include developing food with certain nutrients that an impoverished community may be lacking, much like the recently FDA-approved golden rice, which emerged to treat a global vitamin A deficiency.

Jordan French also theorizes that 3D printing food could eliminate the need for distribution altogether, as it would create a bridge between the producer and the consumer.

The market for 3D-printed food is rising in profits by 46 percent each year until 2023. Mark Crawford of ASME.org alludes that this is due to how the technology could provide a solution to distributing food to people in need.

These technologies aim to tackle the challenges of distributing food to the impoverished for the sake of equal food distribution. Improving farming quality through databases and machine learning, watching the weather to allow for better distribution and even bypassing the need for food production are just some developing technologies that have the potential to assist the world’s hungry.

Jacob Creswell
Photo: United Nations

affordable housingMakeshift tent communities become semi-permanent homes for those who have lost everything to natural disasters. Though housing charities like San Francisco-based New Story have built 850 houses for those affected by natural disasters since 2015, the cost and time it takes to build these houses are hindering the progress.

With plans to build an entire 3-D printed community in earthquake-prone El Salvador by the end of this year, New Story is partnering with ICON to print affordable housing for those that have no choice but to live in tents. Of the 850 houses built so fair, New Story has raised funds for 1,600. Solutions like the 3-D printed house will ensure that available funds are utilized efficiently, transitioning more communities from tents to secure shelters sooner.

Printing 3-D Affordable Housing

The current cost for one New Story house equipped with running water, a sanitary bathroom and concrete floor is $6,500. In March of this year, ICON, New Story’s tech construction partner, printed a 3-D house that only cost $4,000 and was built in 24 hours.

Specifically designed for disaster relief housing, the 3-D printer that built this prototype is made from aluminum, making the printer lightweight and easily transportable. The printer has a generator built in should a power outage arise. Designed to withstand worst conditions, ICON’s 3-D printer is revolutionizing affordable housing solutions, specifically for those devastated by natural disasters.

So far, houses built by New Story have improved the lives of over 6,000 people. Through traditional construction, houses have been built in the following places:

  • Haiti – Leveque, Labodrie, Minoterie, Gonaives
  • El Salvador – Nuevo Cuscatlan, Ahuachapan
  • Bolivia – Mizque

How 3-D Printed Houses Change Lives

Living in a secure shelter helps people out of poverty. Not having the worry of where clean water will come from, the floor turning into mud from the rain or someone robbing the home in the middle of the night allows people to focus on things other than survival.

Prior to living in their New Story houses, a community in Labodrie, Haiti, lived in tents for nearly six years after the 2010 earthquake. Many families were separated due to poor living conditions that were unsafe for children. Living in secure shelters bumped the community’s employment rate up 16 percent and reunited families. 150 homes were built equipped with clean running water, bathrooms and concrete floors.

Also devastated by the 2010 earthquake was Leveque, Haiti. People had been living in tent cities before New Story stepped in. With access to clean water, bathrooms and concrete floors, 75 percent of children in this community now attend school.

In El Salvador, 90 homes were built in Nuevo Cuscatlan and Ahuchapan with the help of New Story. In Nuevo Cuscatlan, 16 percent of homeowners started a business from their home, a playground was built in the community for the children and 66 percent of these children are attending school.

The Future of 3-D Printing

The impact of living in a solid home is the difference between surviving and thriving in a community. With the help of new technology, affordable housing will be built in even more communities than in the past. In addition to helping those affected by natural disasters, 3-D printing homes has the potential to help with a global housing shortage caused by rapid city growth and unaffordable housing prices.

According to City Lab, in some developing nations, “housing costs exceed incomes by more than 3000 percent.”  Disaster area or not, unaffordable housing puts people at risk for poverty.  Continued innovation by companies like ICON and New Story will build stronger, self-sustaining communities in places that are most susceptible to natural and manmade disaster.

– Hope Kelly
Photo: Flickr