Like the torch of Prometheus, technology is a gift that allows us to connect with each other, be more productive, and evolve our way of life. It is a wonderful thing, although many in the world are still living in the dark. Video games, smartphones, and other rapidly developing technologies are incredible additions to our lives for certain, but they are irrelevant to a person who struggles to find fresh food and water every day. To answer this problem of unbalanced technology and power in the world, many incredible inventions have come into being, like the very popular Life Straw, or cheap, adjustable eye-glasses. In addition to these wonderful technologies, 3D printing has also been helping the world a great deal for some time.
There are a plethora of organizations we could talk about, but some that really stand out for us are in the realm of prosthetics. Just last year we partnered with the e-NABLE project, an organization founded by research scientist John Schull from Rochester Institute of Technology that develops and builds 3D printed prosthetic limbs for children around the world.
Another heartwarming story is Not Impossible Labs, an organization “founded on the principle of Technology for the Sake of Humanity.”
They have several different inventions being used to help others, but the one that started it all is “Project Daniel.” As the story goes, Mick Ebeling, founder of Not Impossible Labs, saw the destruction and terror in Sudan and felt compelled to go help. Once there, he not only built the titular Daniel a brand new prosthetic, but also taught local children how to use the technology, making them self-sufficient (with a MakerBot no less – you can actually find more prosthetic designs absolutely free on MakerBot’s website). This was all being taught to some children who had previously never seen a computer before.
Larger scale efforts using 3D printing are plentiful as well, like the Italian 3D printing company WASProject (World’s Advanced Saving Project) developing a method of printing homes out of soil.
There have also been interesting solutions made by Stratasys technology, one being Peppermint Energy using Fused Deposition Modeling (F.D.M.) to create low-cost, portable Solar Generators.
The work of Peppermint Energy, powered by a Stratasys Fortus 3D Production System, allowed them to have functioning prototypes of their generators that they were able to test and implement in the field much quicker than traditional manufacturing methods. This drastic saving of time being used to design and prototype are extremely important to development projects such as this, since time is always a huge factor when trying to bring about change in areas with great need. Being able to design for Additive Manufacturing and quickly reiterate their designs allows Peppermint to come to market with a much higher quality product, for less cost.
If there is one thing to be taken away from these stories, it is that 3D printing is not only a tool for manufacturing, but an agent of change. It allows anyone, anywhere, to make a difference and bring their own fire to where it is needed.