‘SCIENCE NON-FICTION AND THE BOTTOM BILLION.’
The first seminar in the CRASSH lecture series, on the 14th October, was a fascinating insight into the uses of 3D Printing in the Development Field. Many thanks to Dr. Laura James and Dr. Tim Minshall for expertly leading us through both the technicalities and the possibilities of 3D Printing Technologies.
The first question is – what exactly is 3D Printing? It is a technology that allows 3D geometrical objects to be printed onsite. For example, if you require a plastic socket cover, it is possible to create the design with the relevant proportions on a laptop and print the socket cover straight from the printer.
Dr. James used this example to explore the benefits of 3D printing used by FieldReady in rural developing communities in Haiti. It is estimated that 60 – 80% of aid finance is spent on logistics, including income procurement, and the transport, housing and distribution of goods. This means that up to 80% of the money that could be used elsewhere is spent in the transportation of goods from origin to destination. With a 3D Printer, goods of correct dimensions can be printed onsite and the costs reduced by 40%.
Dr. James used another example of the production of umbilical clips used in ante-natal care. They can be produced on site more cheaply and hygienically using 3D Printing technologies. FieldReady use this method of production in Haiti and find it highly effective. There are immediate benefits to local communities, and the production, transport and distribution costs are eliminated. The training of local people in the use and maintenance of the technology is also an important facet.
However, 3D Printing is not without difficulties. The requirement of a consistent power supply in a rural developing area or an area of disaster relief is unreliable. Equally there is a risk of copyright: how can copyright issues be monitored? And of course, there is the possibility of the exploitation of 3D Printing Technologies.
The conclusion, however, of 3D Printing and its uses in the Development Field is highly positive. This technology certainly has the capacity to transform financial aid losses and produce vital equipment onsite. We will wait with anticipation to see what the next development in this field will be.
For now though, many thanks again to Dr. James and Dr. Minshall for the first of a fascinating CRASSH Lecture Series.