How 3D printing could help provide relief in disaster areas.


The assistance of 3D printing in disaster zones is expected to rise, from emergency shelters to life jackets. 3D printing could provide aid works with access to thousands of items produced on site as well as transforming the way communities can be rebuilt after a crisis. 3D printing could create replacement parts to mend leaking pipes, incubators and medical equipment.


The non-profit organisation Field Ready used the technology in Nepal following last year’s earthquake. They believe as the technology improves the potential to provide onsite assistance is expected to increase. Field Ready innovations adviser Andrew Lamb said ‘There’s quite a significant problem with the supply chain after a major disaster, there’s logistical problems of getting supplies into a country, being able to take the means of production to the place where supply is needed gives you the versatility to make whatever is needed in the field’. Field ready has been working with children’s charity, World Visions to set up an innovation lab to help relief efforts where needed. Also putting together a digital catalogue of 3D printable parts for use in humanitarian aid. Andrew Lamb also said ‘the main thing we want to be able to do in Nepal is deliver more training to the local people who have incredibly high skill sets so they would be able to use the machines we have been able to deploy’.


The University of Hertfordshire use 3D printing as part of everyday life. Students use the technology for many things from printing chain mail for fashion designing to designing a modular relief shelter that can be produced entirely on a 3D printer from plastic, bamboo and coconut fibres. Student Huseyin Dervish created an outfit from 3D printing made from nylon. He believes that you ‘can definitely see the use of 3D printing in disaster zones as you can get the clothes straight away in the location you need’.


Although printing waterproof clothing and shoes on mass is still a way off, options will improve as the printers improve. Improvements could include faster printing times, slightly cheaper materials and a wider variety of materials. Currently items can be printed in nylon, metals, rubbers, ceramics and glass but as technology improves we will see a much wider application of printing.


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