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3D Printing Humanitarian Aid - Possible?

As I noted in my “Why a Blog?” post, I am going to occasionally throw out ideas that many may think are crazy.  I believe that this is one of those cases.  Idea: can 3D printers revolutionize the way that Humanitarian Aid is delivered?

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When I started talking about the concept, most people chuckled at me until I started explaining what I saw in the future.  If we imagine the cost of 3D printers decreasing over time and their abilities expanding, how far fetched is it that we start to see governments, international organizations, and local groups/organizations putting them in place?  Imagine if a local government entity could start printing Jerry cans for a small population who needs to store safe drinking water after an emergency? What if we could print nails and tools to help build or repair shelter? Or what if we could print emergency shelter in a way like Universe Architecture is planning to print a building?

In many large scale emergencies, one of the challenges faced is the pipeline of getting goods to the affected population.  What if we could “print” a lot of the needed supplies right AT the refugee camp rather than flying it in from another country?  What if the population could print what THEY needed?

My interest comes more from the information side.  So, imagine a time when governments and  humanitarian organizations release 3DK kits to outline how to print and build a simple shelter solution, a non-food-item kit, and/or a water pump replacement part. Would providing such information make Information-As-Aid more understandable to all?  Private companies are already releasing 3DKs as Nokia just did for cases of their Luma 820 phone.  Should we not start thinking this way?

I am also wondering how such devices can help international responders.  One simple case would be print 3D terrain models so that responders could visually understand the area they have to navigate when undertaking rescue or logistical missions. I trust that there are many, many more ideas out there.

Of course these ideas might be several years away, but if we start with the end goal of providing open information to the vulnerable people, we will get there much sooner than many think.

Ideas are very much welcomed!

Andrej