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 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.

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 cause 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.

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 prosthesis is a cumbersome process that can take several days, but 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