Printing in the field
In disaster areas and underdeveloped countries it is very important not only to supply the right humanitarian aid but also to get it to the right places. With his project Field Ready, Andrew Lamb is tackling both simultaneously: he manufactures necessary items with 3D printers right where they are needed.
In disaster areas and underdeveloped countries it is very important not only to supply the right humanitarian aid but also to get it to the right places. With his project “Field Ready”, Andrew Lamb is tackling both simultaneously: he manufactures necessary items with 3D printers right where they are needed.
Andrew Lamb is a computer scientist with a degree in engineering. He first became active in humanitarian help with Engineers without Borders in 2005. Now his non-profit organization Field Ready is bringing the maker-spirit to underdeveloped regions across the globe. When asked how 3D printing could change the world he first explains one of the major problems. If a catastrophe occurs, 60 to 80 % of the aid income goes into procurement, international and local transport, warehousing, distribution and associated activities (e.g. information management).
„It is bad if the relief supplies aren’t going to make it to their final destination. But it is worse if they get broken on their way. And that is happening a lot.“
First started in Haiti in 2014, Field Ready brought MakerBot 3D printers into the field. “We decided to use print technology because it had a great deal of potential to finish products by itself. Also a lot of funders understand that 3D printing is innovative – that is not necessarily a given.”
In Haiti the team of Field Ready found out that smaller clinics didn’t have access to supplies they needed every day. Umbilical cord clamps were among the most requested items. Where those were not available, the nurses used rubber bands from their gloves or any other clip they could find to clamp the umbilical cord after childbirth. That resulted in a higher risk of infection and in some cases in a higher chance of the death of a child. “Without the clamps, 5 % of the newborn children die.”
“Printing is cheaper than importing” Lamb says and states an example: Umbilical cord clamps cost 0.1 $ off the shelf in China and 1 $ in Haiti. The cost of printing & electricity for a clamp is around 0.2 $. With labor there is a total cost of 0.6 $. That means it’s 40 % cheaper without a supply chain when made in the field – and this cost will come down even further.
The focus of the organization is not only on bringing supplies to the field but to build up local skills. Field Ready is training the locals how to use the MakerBots and the programs to print and design needed parts.
“We will be able to respond quicker and much more focused to the needs in developing countries. With aid packages it is often the case that many goods are sent, but not just those that the residents need. The result is an awful lot of waste. Our goal is that this waste doesn’t pile up or – even better – that we can use this waste to 3D print new equipment.”
Based on their experience in Haiti, Field Ready knows that they can make useful things as long as there is a sustained, uninterrupted power supply and as long as there is a technical expert who also knows about 3D Printing. Facilities for testing parts are vital as well and although plastic recycling is not possible yet, the value 3D printing is bringing to supply chains can be huge already.
About Field Ready:
Recognizing the acute limitations of humanitarian aid especially in remote and low resource areas, the founders of Field Ready came together with extensive qualifications and a deep passion for working on grand challenges. They were founded on a belief that the right application of appropriate and disruptive technology, coupled with a keen understanding of real-world problems can lead to profound and transformational breakthroughs.
Field Ready is a non-governmental, non-profit organization (501c3 registered in the US) and has partners worldwide. It combines a wealth of practical field knowledge, advanced qualifications, expert advisors and an open innovation process that has created an opportunity to address some of the most difficult problems faced in remote and difficult places to work.
It also supports the network Humanitarian Makers which brings together makers and relief workers, so that – wherever they are in the world – any maker with 3D modelling skills can help to design supplies for relief workers to put straight into good use.