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Can 3D printing save lives in disaster zones?

Oxfam disaster scene

Oxfam hopes 3D printing can help improve sanitation during humanitarian crises

With the rise of interest in 3D printing it is becoming easier to bring physical designs to life without having to commit to mass production. Although it's known mainly for its gimmicky uses, international charity Oxfam reckons 3D printing also has the potential to have a huge impact in the developing world.

So it's partnered with 3D printer company iMakr to help design, test and manufacture products that will help to keep people healthy in areas suffering a crisis.

Call for designers

Oxfam disaster scene

The charity has teamed up with the 3D printing company to explore new ways of working together

Through the use of My Mini Factory - a sharing site for 3D printing designs - iMakr is calling on 3D designers to create bespoke products which solve specific problems during humanitarian emergencies.

"In developing countries there is always a big issue with lack of availability of resources, suppliers and skills so if you can do something on your own with your own machine it's much more efficient and it gives you a lot of power," explains iMakr's Sylvain Preumont.

The first challenge is to provide a more efficient hand wash system that can be used where sanitisation is a serious problem and water is in short supply.

Test bed

After receiving a number of designs iMakr and My Mini Factory will choose a selection to be sent electronically to Oxfam's team and 3D printed on-site. The designs will then be tested and iterated until a final product can be manufactured

The first project of its kind, this looks like being yet another leap forward in the 3D printing revolution. You can find out more about the campaign here.

Words: Christian Harries

Christian Harries is a freelance product designer and recent graduate from Ravensbourne. His portfolio can be seen here.