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

African Technological InnovationsOver the last few years, innovators and inventors have been springing up across the African continent to deliver buzzworthy technological advancements to the world. Though Africa is not conventionally thought of as a global tech powerhouse, the continent is certainly on the rise and gaining recognition for developing original and important technologies. There are a lot of brilliant minds coming out of African countries, and they are using their intellect, resolve and resourcefulness to introduce groundbreaking inventions to the world. These three contemporary African technological innovations are the first of their kind and well worth learning more about.

The First Recycled 3D Printer

With a population of just 7.6 million people, Togo is one of the smallest countries in Africa. In recent years, this small nation gained worldwide recognition for accomplishing an incredible feat. In the city of Lome, a team of young innovators operates Woelab, a fablab launched in 2012 where local makers come together to collaborate and create. In 2013, Woelab developed the world’s first fully-functional 3D printer made entirely from recycled parts. Made from used computer parts and other finds, the Woelab innovation is one shining example of resourcefulness, sustainability and ingenuity.

In the years after this impressive first, several creators throughout the African continent have followed in Woelab’s footsteps, creating recycled 3D printers and putting them to use in their own countries. Buni Hub in Tanzania and KLAKS 3D in Ghana have sprung up in recent years, creating and dispensing their own 3D printers to benefit national industries. Kenyan startups Micrive Infinite and African Born 3D are currently using 3D printers to help hospitals cut production costs and become more efficient.

African Technological Innovations Include the First Digital Laser

Another exciting example of African technological innovations comes out of South Africa. Dr. Sandile Ngcobo, a researcher for the country’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, developed an important invention that could revolutionize the worlds of science, medicine and information and communications technology. In 2013, while working on his PhD, Ngcobo created the world’s first digital laser.

Traditional lasers use beams of light that can only be modified with various shaping devices like lenses and mirrors. Ngcobo’s laser does not require these devices. Rather, this laser beam is shaped electronically via computer. The digital laser has applications across several disciplines and is making all the meticulous effort that goes into producing technology using lasers a good deal simpler.

The First Neurotechnology Device

Perhaps the one of the most profound African technological innovations to be introduced to the world in recent times comes from a Nigerian physicist. Oshi Agabi brought forth a groundbreaking innovation called the Koniku Kore in 2017. Named for the Yoruba word for “immortal”, the Koniku Kore is the world’s first neurotechnology device. It combines live neurons and stem cells from mice into a silicon chip, and it has applications for several real-world problems. The device may have the ability to detect cancer cells and explosives alike, an infinitely useful technology in contemporary times.

These outstanding innovations are just three in a growing sea of inventions coming to the global market from Africa. Each of these technologies has useful applications for reducing poverty within their countries of origin and the African continent as a whole. Furthermore, they have great potential to impact the world, revolutionizing ICT, science and medicine across the globe.

– Chantel Baul

Photo: Flickr


Poverty is a condition in which income is not enough to afford access to necessary goods, services and infrastructure needed to sustain a quality living standard. Securing and maintaining the means to satisfy adequate nutrition, healthcare, shelter, clothing and other humane safety provisions requires significant funds.

Past Printing

Imagine post-World War I Germany in the 1920s. To fund its military during the war and satisfy reparations thereafter to the Allied nations, the German government’s solution to producing more national income was simple — it commissioned 130 printing companies to print more money.

This, however, gave rise to increasing inflation in which their currency, the German mark, unsupported by a gold standard, became virtually worthless. With every printing press, creating more money became perpetually futile, and the German mark was more useful for a child’s arts and crafts project than it was to purchase food and clothing.

A New Kind of Tech

Less than a century later, technology and three-dimensional (3D) printing has allowed us to not only print currency with regular modifications (so as to prevent counterfeit bills), but to also print the very goods and supplies purchasable with said currency.

Three-dimensional printing employs the use of specialized technology called “additive manufacturing” — computer aided design and modeling software produce a virtual rendering of just about any three-dimensional object.

A 3D printer then reads a data file and melts raw material, such as plastic, metals and concrete, and with laser technology deposits that material through a nozzle. Layer upon layer, the virtual model forms the tactile facsimile.

New Story

A California-based non-profit organization, New Story, wants to sponsor printing-improved homes in El Salvador — Central America’s smallest and most population-dense nation. New Story has also partnered with the company ICON, an Austin, Texas construction technology company, to remedy housing shortages in El Salvador through ICON’s industrial Vulcan 3D printer.

At this year’s South by Southwest festival in Austin, ICON debuted its cement, single-story, 650-square-foot prototype home, a 3D rendering from the Vulcan printer. ICON claims it can erect such a home for $10,000 and in less than 24 hours time. The model is sleek with white concrete and features a living room, bedroom, bathroom and arched porch.

New Story aims to build 100 3D printed homes in El Salvador by 2019, compounding its previous accomplishments in the building of over 700 traditionally constructed homes in Bolivia, El Salvador, and Haiti; the corporation also built 1,300 worldwide.

Revitalizing Slums

ICON maintains it can trim 3D-printed building costs down to $4,000 and that its Vulcan printer can make a home as large as 800-square-feet. 3D printed homes are considered far more cost effective than the typical home. In El Salvador, a nation of over 6 million people, 35 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Housing shortages are said to affect 944,000 families, amounting to 6 out of 10 families with insufficient housing.

And as 68 percent of El Salvadorians lived in urban areas in 2017, latest estimates from 2005 show 29 percent of El Salvador’s urban population lived in slum housing. Slum dwelling is defined as a group of people under the same roof without improved water and sanitation, durable housing or all of the above.

Preventing Natural Disasters

El Salvador’s geography leaves its buildings’ integrity exceptionally susceptible to natural hazards such as earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and volcanic eruptions. It is precariously situated along the Pacific Ring of Fire, a global seismic belt where 81 percent of the world’s earthquakes occur.

Ninety-five percent of El Salvadorians are said to be at risk of a natural disaster. In November 2009, Hurricane Ida displaced 15,000 people and damaged no less than 2,500 homes. New Story is currently fundraising $600,000 for research and development and another $400,000 for the community of 100 3D printed homes in El Salvador.

3D printed homes and building materials originated in Europe. A Dutch company, Dus Architects, built one of the first prototypes, — a small pavilion structure — in Amsterdam in March 2014. In September 2014, Chinese company, WinSun Decoration Design Engineering, used their custom 3D printer to create 10 homes with a cement blend of construction waste and glass fiber. This material incorporation lent more efficient material use to an already eco-friendly production.

3D Printing Around the Globe

The first inhabitable 3D printed home was recently erected in Nantes, France in April 2018 and tenancy is expected this June. The University of Nantes and the Nantes Digital Sciences Laboratory developed the five-bedroom home and a machine called the Batiprint3D built its frame in 18 days.

3D printing has also been proposed by the U.K.-based Oxfam, a confederation of 20 charitable organizations, to aid disaster relief by reproducing its water, sanitation and hygiene kits. Oxfam and non-profit 3D printing company, Field Ready, provided medical instruments and water pipe fittings in response to Nepal’s 2015 earthquake that claimed the lives of 9,000 people and injured 16,800.

There are several predecessors that have used, or plan to use, 3D printing for home construction and humanitarian efforts. But New Story and ICON lead the way with their campaigns to actualize proposals, print homes and alleviate homelessness and unsafe housing without for-profit interest.

Home is Where the Hard-drive Is 

According to the United Nations, over one billion people worldwide live in slum housing — ramshackle homes fortified with scrap metal and founded on unfinished or dirt flooring.

New Story wants to transform slums worldwide into safe living communities; to that end, El Salvador stands to benefit first ahead of the rest of international community with the advent of livable 3D printed homes and requisite funding. All donations to New Story are matched up to $1 million.

– Thomas Benjamin
Photo: Flickr

Oxfam Uses 3D PrintingWith advances in modern technology, there has been a rise in the use of 3D printing by companies and individuals. The nonprofit and humanitarian sectors have begun using the technology in order to better achieve their goals. Oxfam is one of the nonprofit humanitarian organizations that has been trialing 3D printing to help with its disaster relief measures.

How Oxfam uses 3D printing is not a new concept; many other organizations have attempted to use the technology or are latching onto the idea of creating aid items in the area instead of having to ship them.

According to the Oxfam U.K. website, in 2014, Oxfam teamed with a design company called iMakr and asked its supporters with engineering and design expertise to help. The goal is to ultimately use 3D printing to print materials at the disaster site instead of having to ship everything there.

They want to use 3D printing to print their WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) kits. Not only would the kits save time, they would also save money in the long run for the organization, allowing for that money to be used elsewhere by Oxfam to conduct its mission.

Oxfam did a test run with 3D printing after the earthquake in Nepal. They used it for small parts that people may need, such as parts for water pipes. They worked with FieldReady, a nonprofit that specializes in using 3D printing and new technologies in its work.

FieldReady was using 3D printing to print medical tools and supplies in Nepal after the earthquake, showing that 3D printing can be expanded from just kits. It can also be used to make tools and instruments that are fully functional in everyday life. 3D printing by Oxfam was also trialed in Sri Lanka to help support a dam.

There is still a long way to go to see how Oxfam uses 3D printing in the future and it will be interesting to see if they will continue to lead the way with innovations in technology. While 3D printing is relatively new, other organizations can follow Oxfam’s model and try to use them and mold them to their missions in order to become more efficient and effective.

Emilia Beuger

Photo: Pixabay


The World Health Organization estimates that about 30 million people are in need of a prosthesis, but in many developing countries, less than 10 percent of those who require assistive devices and technologies have access to them. Braces and artificial limbs are among the most desperately needed medical devices. This shortage is due to a lack of expertise to produce and fit prosthetics in developing countries, as well as the time and financial cost to patients. Recent advances in 3D-printed prosthetic limbs might provide a solution to this problem.

Increase in Necessity

Disability is an important developmental issue because people with disabilities experience grim socioeconomic outcomes and poverty as they face extra barriers to healthcare, education, and employment. Without prosthetics, those that have lost limbs due to war, accidents or disease are entirely reliant on others for survival.

This is an especially pressing issue due to the recent spike in the use of landmines in several war-torn countries. Stepping on a landmine invariably causes foot and leg injuries, and secondary infections usually result in amputations. A report by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines found that in 2016, global landmine casualties were at a 10-year high, and funding for landmine clearance campaigns was at a 10-year low. While the Mine Ban Treaty banned the use of antipersonnel mines in 1999, armed conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, and Yemen contributed to a sharp spike in the number of people killed and injured by mines.

Children living in these areas are particularly vulnerable to landmines. For example, in Afghanistan, children made up 45 percent of the civilian landmine casualties reported in 2014. Children are more likely to die from the injuries sustained in a landmine explosion. Of those maimed children who survive, few will be in a position to receive prostheses that can keep up with their growth. This is where 3D-printed prosthetic limbs can make a big difference.

Who’s Making Them?

Programs like 3D PrintAbility, Project Daniel, Cyborg Beast, and Enabling the Future are working to provide affordable and reliable 3D-printed prosthetics in developing countries. Traditionally, creating a prosthesis is a cumbersome process that can take several days. With 3D printing, this process is shortened considerably. The residual limb is scanned, creating a 3D model that can be customized to fit the patient. The prosthetic is then printed in about six hours.

As with many new technologies, there are still several issues to finalize, in terms of testing the prosthetics, making the technology available in areas of need, and training personnel to use the equipment. However, 3D-printed prosthetic limbs are a great example of how technology provides novel ways to improve lives.

Helena Kamper

Photo: Flickr

MyPo
The Paraguayan nonprofit organization Po in collaboration with Thalmic Labs are using 3D technology to provide MyPo, an advanced type of prosthetic, to low-income people in the country.

According to the co-founder of Po, Eric Dijkhunis, there is a high percentage of limb amputations in the country because of unsafe work conditions and frequent motorcycle accidents. Unfortunately, less than one percent of people who have limb amputations are able to afford a prosthetic. Po claims it can make more than 100 3D printed prosthetics at the cost of one traditional model.

MyPo 3D Printing

3D printed prosthetics have many advantages over traditional ones. 3D printing allows those in need to receive their limb faster and cheaper. Cost is especially challenging for Paraguayans. Just one traditional upper limb prosthetics on average cost between $30,00 to $80,000. Even more problematic is the fact that prosthetics are not a one-time purchase. Prosthetics must be replaced after several years. Also, parents of children with an amputation must buy different prosthetics as the child grows and develops. However, a 3D printed limbs can cost less than $200.

Initially, Po only produced basic 3D printed prosthetics that could be personalized. Patients are encouraged to choose the colors and the design on their model. Recently, Po paired up with the Thalmic Labs to make the MyPo, a 3D printed prosthetics that uses bioelectric technology. The device moves based on bioelectric signals sent from the amputee’s muscles. Additionally, the MyPo can be paired with Thalmic Labs’ Myo armband which allows human movement to control electronic devices. Not only is it functional, but the MyPo is comfortable and easy to use even for those who are not tech savvy. It will be sold at a relatively cheap price and a portion will be subsidized by private donations. They are currently trying to raise $50,000 for their Indiegogo campaign and have already reached $35,000 with 160 donators.

As of November of this year, five people are testing the MyPo. Po-partner organizations are duplicating the MyPo model in Argentina and Brazil. Dijkhunis encourages people in other countries to use this technology, he says “We believe that these technologies applied to social impact are not only disrupting an industry, but are rewriting the rules of the game for the future of prosthetics, and handing the power of innovation to people all around the world.”

Paraguay is not the only country with such a high volume of amputees who cannot afford a prosthetic, but the MyPo model can provide millions around the world an affordable and advanced prosthetic.

Karla Umanzor

Photo: Flickr