3D Printing and DIY Solutions Providing Rapid Response in Disaster Areas

Field Ready's 3D printing and digital manufacturing solutions offer rapid returns in disaster-hit areas.

In areas where supplies are scarce and infrastructure non-existent, could Field Ready's 3D printed solutions be the future of effective humanitarian aid?

Autor*in Tristan Rayner, 11.02.17

In areas where supplies are scarce and infrastructure non-existent, could Field Ready’s 3D printed solutions be the future of effective humanitarian aid?

Disaster relief is always a challenge, with humanitarian efforts hampered and people left isolated and displaced. Electricity and fresh water are scarce, while aid can take days or even weeks to arrive in disaster zones via fragmented supply chains. Infrastructure is often non-existent.

Field Ready, a not-for-profit startup, is focused on creating cheap, effective DIY local solutions to common problems around health, water, and sanitation – providing effective disaster relief exactly where and when it’s needed .

The team use 3D printing and digital manufacturing on the ground to overcome logistical challenges. This serves as a way of getting around the bottlenecks in the long supply chains when coming from other countries and agencies, and where the needs on the ground aren’t always known.

3D printing allows for customised solutions without significant delays, and is backed by the open-source community. By working with the people on the ground to build solutions, skills can be shared and learned. A ripple-effect can spread out from the initial necessity, meaning DIY temporary solutions sometimes turn into permanent tools that can be used by entrepreneurs, and micro-businesses can sprout up and continue serving communities.

This can act as a great complement to other approaches, such as new humanitarian marketplaces designed to offer suitable and timely emergency aid supplies.

Printing Medical Equipment in Nepal

The Field Ready team first offered aid in Haiti and Nepal, post earthquake, validating their approach by working with doctors and nurses to create water filters, oxygen splinters, prosthetic limbs, otoscopes, tweezers, and more – depending on whatever people on the ground said was what was most needed.

The materials needed for 3D printing are not cheap or readily available in disaster zones, but a small amount of material can be shaped into any key component to rapidly serve needs.

More recently, the team were involved in the disaster following Hurricane Maria, where the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico were decimated. On the Virgin Islands, 40 days after the hurricane, more than eighty per cent of the population remain without electricity, the longest blackout in US history.

A team involving Field Ready arrived at the islands to find fields of solar panels from solar farms either broken or shredded by the thousand. They realised that even if the panels were damaged or no longer connected, they were still producing some power during the day.

Working with locals, who identified the lack of power as a unifying problem, within half a day, panels were hooked up to car batteries to deliver 12-volt power to charge mobile devices to reach relatives or FEMA, or create solar-powered lights at night.

This serves to fill the gap while the grid is reconnected, a task that those on the ground expect to take six months to a year.

The Field Ready organisation is currently working in Haiti, Nepal, Syria, South Sudan, and the US, and is focusing on scaling up their efforts.

From Ashes to Hope: Rebuilding Gaza with Greencake

How do you set about mending the destruction caused by years of conflict and rebuilding your home, neighbourhood or city, when political instability make it impossible to get hold of the necessary resources? Two Gazan women set about doing just that, and have come up with a durable and affordable building block made out of waste materials: Greencake.

Roshni Rides: Green, Safe and Affordable Transport for Pakistan’s Refugees

In refugee settlements across the world, convenient transport facilities are one of many daily hurdles faced by the people who live there. But in one refugee community, in Orangi Town, Pakistan, a new award-winning project has set out to make mobility as easy, affordable and green as possible. Introducing Roshni Rides and their innovative system of solar-powered rickshaws.

Trine’s Crowd Investing in Solar Projects Helps Tackle Global Energy Poverty

Crowd investing platform Trine lets people invest small amounts of money in solar energy systems for off-grid communities. Successful projects mean a return on your investment, and people around the world gaining access to clean electricity.

Migraflix: Where Refugees and Immigrants Become Cultural Ambassadors

By bringing together locals and foreigners through intercultural exchange, Migraflix is helping to flip the typical immigrant paradigm on its head. Rather than being seen as foreigners in need of help from their new country, instead they become entrepreneurs, enriching their new communities with their own unique skills.

Refugee Aid App: Enabling Refugees Better Access to Essential Services

For refugees fleeing war and persecution, starting over in a foreign country can be a major challenge. RefAid is a mobile app that connects users with local services offered by aid organisations, to help new arrivals re-establish their lives.

‘Conceptos Plásticos’ Combats Housing Shortages With Bricks Made of Plastic Waste

In poor countries, housing shortages, a lack of building materials, and an abundance of plastic waste, often go hand in hand. By turning waste into building materials, a Colombian start-up is killing two birds with a stone.

Emergency Shelter in Next to No Time

Australian company Humanihut has developed emergency shelter units that look to provide a more durable form of housing to refugees or people affected by disasters, with built in bathroom facilities and electricity. Each unit can be set up in just a few minutes and is designed to last up to 20 years.

ZubaBox: a Solar Powered Container Brings the Internet to Rural Areas

A British charity designed a solar internet hub that helps bring digital literacy to rural areas of the developing world, even those lacking electricity.

Thinking Inside The Box: the Shipping Container Making Surgeries Safer

Hygienic and sterile: the kind of conditions that are crucial to any successful operation. Here's a new invention that could be ensuring safe surgeries are available to patients and health professionals all around the world.