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Could 3D Printers Help End Poverty In Haiti?

Updated on January 14, 2014

Third World Poverty

Haiti, on the economic periphery of a world system that is dominated by other core countries. It is hard to imagine that there are so many people in our world that live in deep poverty and survive in an environment that lacks even the most basic infrastructure. They live with little or no opportunity for earning an income. They lack basic sewage and garbage disposal. To add insult to injury the people of Haiti still suffer from the effects of a devastating earthquake that killed thousands in 2010.

One Thing Leads To Another

I was excitedly telling my sister about a recent article that I had written about 4D printer technology. In explaining 4D printers the conversation naturally led to the amazing simplicity and affordability of 3D printers. She had recently returned from a trip to Haiti where she had been working with Helping Hands Noramise, a Seattle-based foundation dedicated to improving the lives of Haitians. She emphatically insists that she feels compelled to make a difference there but just isn't sure how yet. After talking about the printers she said "this is what they need"! I agreed that it would be nice for them to have but was unsure of just how it would help.

Things I Wish I Didn't Know

I have to say that there are some things in this world that I wish I never knew. After talking with my sister I looked up videos on Haiti and learned of the deep poverty and the vastness of devastation caused by the 2010 earthquake. There are actually a lot of people and organizations who want to help Haiti. The sheer magnitude of the disaster is what makes it so difficult to even make a drop of a difference in the ocean of devastation that this country faces.


Then, as if it were fate, a few days later I read about the Plastic Bank. The Plastic Bank is an ingenious idea by two Canadian Business men. They plan to pay people to bring recyclable plastic to their plastic bank centers and there they will use 3D printers and the recycled plastic to manufacture new usable goods. This encourages people to clean up their environment. They are able to earn money. Manufacturing new products will help stimulate their economy by creating jobs.

3D printing is the manufacturing process where a 3-dimensional object of any shape is produced by following a digital model. 3-D printing is achieved by laying down multiple layers of a material until the desired shape is achieved. This is just the opposite of traditional machining which subtracts from a piece of raw material until the desired shape is achieved. Since the early 1980's 3-D printing has been utilized in prototyping and production manufacturing.

The Practical applications of this new technology are vast. If products can be produced on demand there would be no need to keep large inventories of specialized parts. It could virtually eliminate shipping costs witch has traditionally been a problem for Haiti. It is very expensive to ship in raw materials. This could save millions of dollars in products and storage facilities. Just imagine being able to print out a replacement part for a computer or a motorcycle with just the digital instructions from a computer halfway around the world. Currently in Haiti simple machinery is discarded when it has a broken part. It is often just too difficult to obtain replacement parts.

The Start Of Something Good

The plastic bank plans to try out their idea in Peru this Summer. But it they have success there they could expand to other parts of the world as well. Maybe it is a lot to hope that 3D printers and the plastic bank could help end poverty and help clean up the environment in Haiti. But it could be a start. It could be the beginning of something good. Maybe the road to recovering this beautiful nation could start with getting garbage off of the streets of Haiti.

About The Author

My name is Karen Shiley. I live in the beautiful evergreen Washington state. I have an adventurous spirit and love to share what I learn with everyone. I like science, gardening, cooking, reading, daytrips and above all else my amazing family who supply me with endless amusement and happiness. This article was originally written on December 28th, 2013.


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