The healthcare industry is turning to 3D printing for (relatively) inexpensive, completely customized medical devices.
Companies are creating ways to 3D print food so we can produce more without so much of a strain on the environment.
And while those above are working on furthering technology, others are taking the technology we already have – and figuring out how to use it to help people.
Giving a Hand
Unfortunately, it is far too common for people to lose limbs in developing countries. Disease, accidents, even intentional disfigurements are to blame.
And aid like Social Security isn’t there to provide for those who can’t work due to their disabilities. So several groups are working on ways to get 3D printed prostheses like hands, arms, and feet to people who need them.
e-NABLE, for example, is a group challenging those around the world with 3D printers to print out prosthetic hands. Some of these hands are sent to those who have lost their own. For others, the 3D file is available open source so you can print a hand for someone you personally know.
Building It Back Up
After earthquakes hit Nepal in 2015, Field Ready was already there to help the displaced people. But they brought something a little extra to their efforts: a 3D printer. And with this printer, they started changing the way we approach aid.
Humanitarian efforts used to require shipping in everything. Which meant getting aid to those needing it was expensive, sometimes impossible, and slow to happen.
But Field Ready used their printer to produce parts needed for plumbing fixtures in the camps. And they have plans to develop 3D files for even more items, including vehicle parts and buckets.
Making Children’s Days a Little Brighter
Giving people back the ability to provide for themselves and bringing more efficient aid to displaced peoples is a huge positive for 3D printing.
But sometimes the little things mean just as much.
Ethical Filament is creating jobs for low income families while helping the environment!
There’s some concern that 3D printing will push people out of jobs. Companies are already looking for ways to utilize 3D printers in addition to (or even in place of) traditional manufacturing.
But if companies follow the lead of Ethical Filament, we can have both goods built by 3D printing and jobs for low-income families.
3D printing is going to need a lot of plastic in the future. But we already have plenty of the stuff around, especially in developing countries where recycling programs aren’t in place.
So Ethical Filament suggests hiring people (at higher rates than what they’re currently making, of course) who live in these impoverished areas. They bring discarded plastic to recycling facilities, and those facilities convert it into plastic filament for 3D printing.
Making Technology More Accessible
Lots of people have worked on the self-replicating 3D printer idea. Kartik Gada, however, wants to see it done.
Not to be the person who gets to hold the patent. Or to be known as the guy who finally did it.
But because he wants to be able to help people living in poverty get access to technology so they can i
To get closer to that goal, he worked with the RepRap project to offer the Uplift Prize for the inventor of an open-source, low-cost printer; and the Grand Personal Marketing Prize for the best improvement to the current design.
Spurring (and Recognizing) Action
The groups above are hardly the only ones to use 3D printing for charitable or humanitarian efforts. In fact, TechforTrade (Ethical Filament’s parent organization) developed the 3D4D Challenge in 2012 to encourage organizations to create ways to use 3D printing in these efforts.
The reward? Recognition and a monetary prize to continue their research and development.
The winners covered a range of applications, from shoes that protect diseased feet to robotic greenhouses for food production.
The World’s a Better Place Thanks to 3D Printing
Some of these efforts are world-changing. Others change the world for just one person. But 3D printing’s biggest benefits (customization, low costs, simple manufacturing process) bring big impact to those in need when they need help the most.