3D Printing Solutions
It may be difficult to determine what the World’s Advanced Saving Project (WASP) does from looking at its name. One might assume the organization focuses on environmental issues or poverty reduction, which is essentially correct, but the way WASP operates makes it unique. WASP is a tech company that creates 3D printing solutions with a focus on sustainability.

Like many innovative tech companies, WASP specializes in building 3D printers. Taking things further, the organization produced a 3D printer capable of creating a house. The 40-foot tall printer, named “Big Delta” by its creators, is claimed to be one of the largest in the world. By simply putting a clay and straw mixture into the printer, Big Delta can create a shelter in a few days.

While this is exciting news, there are currently several other companies that are capable of building shelters, often in less than a day. Big Delta and WASP outshine other companies at their price point. WASP calculates that with the costs of clay, straw, water and energy, a shelter can be printed for around $55. Furthermore, if the clay and straw combination is manually mixed, it can reduce energy costs dramatically.

For many, the idea of living in a straw/clay hut may not seem very appealing, yet for many others, any form of structurally stable housing would be a dream come true. According to WHO, nearly 863 million people live in slum housing.

Slum housing is defined as housing that lacks certain characteristics that make it durable such as access to water, sanitation, adequate space or ventilation. Additionally, over 100 million people worldwide are thought to be homeless according to the most recent U.N. global survey.

Those who are considered homeless by the U.N., people displaced by natural disasters, political instability or a variety of other factors, could benefit tremendously from fast, cheap and stable housing. With the Big Delta, WASP is just one of many organizations working to provide reliable, yet affordable housing to those in need. A 3D printed shelter may not be the best form of housing for every situation; however, it could be a good option for those in developing countries who have extremely limited income.

As innovation advances and technology improves, it is good to see that some companies are shifting focus and addressing world issues like poverty and sustainability. Who knows, in the next decade, advanced technology may allow people to 3D print entire buildings or even hospitals for a relatively low cost.

Weston Northrop

Photo: Flickr

NASA technology
Rescuers in Nepal are using NASA technology to find survivors buried under piles of rubble.

A new piece of equipment, known as FINDER, detects very slight movements under piles of debris. By using low-powered microwave signals, the suitcase-sized device can find heartbeats and signs of breathing, even when the victims are unconscious. So far, four men have been rescued from the ruins of collapsed buildings thanks to FINDER.

This is the first real-world application of the device, which was effective in detecting heartbeats through 30 feet of rubble in testing. The technology uses an algorithm similar to one developed by NASA to monitor orbiting space satellites. The device is sensitive enough to distinguish between humans, animals and machines, making it valuable in post-disaster situations.

Considering the severity of the disaster, such devices are certainly needed. The 8.1 magnitude earthquake, known as the Gorkha earthquake, has killed more than 8,000 people and injured many more. The quake was rated as “Extreme” on the Mercalli intensity scale and caused an avalanche on Mount Everest that killed 19 people. Rescue efforts have been hindered by over 120 aftershocks, which are expected to continue for months, if not years.

Gorkha was the worst earthquake to hit the region in nearly a century. Most victims died in Nepal, though hundreds were also killed or injured in India, China and Bangladesh.

Earthquakes are especially disastrous for the world’s poor, who often live in substandard and unhealthy conditions. When disasters strike, rescue services are inadequate and access to healthcare is restricted. Buildings in poorer countries may be overcrowded and may not be built with safety or earthquake resistance in mind. Damage is less likely to be repaired.

Small, landlocked Nepal is one of the world’s poorest and least developed countries. The United Nations estimates at least 25 percent of Nepalese live below the poverty line. Literacy rates are low with nearly half of women reported as illiterate. Most of the population is rural and most roads are graveled or earthen.

In addition to poverty, the remote and hazardous terrain of Nepal hinders rescue efforts. International aid and innovations in technology are both needed to assist those affected by the disaster.

Alongside FINDER, a few other innovative technologies have been included in rescue efforts in Nepal. The online, crowd-sourced mapping group OpenStreetMap organized over 4,000 remote volunteers to assist rescuers in their efforts. Meanwhile, drones have seen significant use by reporters and photojournalists recording the earthquake’s extensive damage.

– Kevin Mclaughlin

Sources: The Guardian, LA Times, NASA, JPL, NCBI, United Nations, Wired
Photo: Engadget