In April of this year, Nepal suffered its worst natural disaster in more than 80 years. Two major earthquakes rocked the nation, leaving a death toll of more than 8,000 people and 15,000 injured. Nine out of every 10 schools were destroyed and countless homes and businesses were lost. Now, as the country attempts to restore what it can of people’s lives and livelihoods, the 3D printing community is taking unique and inspiring steps to help those who were injured by the devastation.
Arms for Amputees
Case-in-point is University of Victoria engineer Pranav Shrestha. A Nepalese citizen, he and his brother designed a prosthetic hand with a 3D printer, and have plans to distribute them out of an orthopedic hospital in Kathmandu, that their father co-founded.
Shrestha sees a considerable need globally, as 80% of amputees live in poor countries, and merely 2% of them are able to afford prosthetic devices.
Dr. Nikolai Dechev, who runs the project at the University of Victoria, hopes to make the prosthetics open source. Soon, the group will launch a crowdfunding campaign to help create printing stations in Nepal, as well as at sites in Guatemala.
Medical Supplies for Remote and Impoverished Areas
Field Ready is an organization with the goal of solving the difficulties of aid efforts in remote and impoverished areas. Their work was most recently a success in Haiti, using MakerBot 3D printers to create a range of medical supplies for when disaster strikes—such as umbilical cord clamps and prosthetic arms. Their efforts can be the next vital resource for relief in Nepal. With the help of Bold Machines, Field Ready has been looking for solutions for people who lose limbs in disasters. e-Nable is also a popular group of volunteers printing prosthetics, but they still face the issue of getting the limbs to the areas where they’re needed.
In an interview with 3DPrint.com, Robert Steiner, the General Manager of Bold Machines, said, “The primary goal was to have a fully 3D printed prosthetic hand that did not require any screws, nuts/bolts or tools to assemble (as those items could be impossible to source in remote areas). We used fabric strips and elastic bands cut from shorts for the testing. The secondary goal was to make the files accessible for development/design changes by others – so it could be improved and modified for specific needs.”
Fundraising and 3D Recreations
NEPAL: 3D RELIEF is another organization led by leading researchers in 3D printing technology, that has raised funds in support of on the ground NGOs working to provide food, shelter, and water to displaced people. In an innovate approach to relief effort, they are also recreated affected areas as 3D models, providing valuable information about which ares were most affected by the earthquake.
“Specifically, we are building 3D recreations of Kathmandu, the earthquake and its aftermath, as well as generating 3D models of the most affected areas, the people, and debris,” wrote NEPAL: 3D RELIEF leader Jang Hee I.
While these examples only scrape the surface of how the 3D printing community is pioneering relief effort methods, they demonstrate a wide range of strategies aimed at using a fast, cheap and precise technology to improve lives after devastation.