3D printers are moving towards a world where goods can be readily manufactured at home instead of relying on centralized supply chains. A lot of people in the first world don’t understand the ramifications of this technology but in the third world the advantages of 3D printers are becoming quite obvious:
A growing number of people are bringing the maker spirit to off-the-grid and underdeveloped regions across the globe. It’s part of an effort to create technologically self-sufficient communities, while bringing a little economic uplift in the process.
Nonprofit organizations like Field Ready and for-profit businesses such as re3D have already brought 3D printers to underdeveloped economies. In Haiti, Field Ready’s Eric James and Dara Dotz are working on 3D printing on-demand birthing kits, including umbilical clamps. As Dotz told me, Field Ready is also encouraging small scale manufacturing of agricultural tools via 3D printing.
“We’re working on printing simple things like oxygen splitters for oxygen tanks, which link the tank to the patient,” Dotz said. “Small clinics just can’t get [these] medical products and equipment, which bigger hospitals can buy in bulk at a discount. You can also wait six months to three years to get your equipment, and then there can be a lot of corruption with that as well.”
3D printers have two advantages that I really cherish. First they decentralize manufacturing, which makes controlling can and can’t be manufactured difficult for the state. Second they allow people to store raw resources and use them to make needed tools when (or near when) they’re needed. Keeping a stock of every tool you may need is generally more difficult than keeping stock of spools of plastic wire.
The first world probably won’t see these advantages in action for some time but the third world, as is often the case, is seeing the effects of innovation in the present.