Which one of a drone or a 3D printer is faster to deliver umbilical pliers in a disaster area? In Haiti as in Nepal, the association Field Ready sets up crisis fablabs. Enquiry.
The solutions put in place by refugees redefine humanitarian associations’ relationship to innovation, affirmed a report from the University of Oxford Refugee Studies Centre in 2015. Representative of this new paradigm, Techrefugees, a community present in 27 countries, made the “mixed” hackathon, involving refugees and innovators, the central piece of it plan. It’s this same conviction for bottom up innovation that describes Arnon Zamir from the Israeli association Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) which organizes makethons dedicated to handicap: “We bring together need knowers with makers.”
Dara Dotz, maker without borders
But makers do not stop at the gates of the hackathon. In disaster areas, they are likely to compensate for the rupture of the supply chains. It’s the principle of Field Ready, association founded in 2014 by the American humanitarian Eric James and Dara Dotz, pioneer of 3D printing in austere environments. In Haiti, Nepal and Sudan soon, Field Ready is setting up field makerspaces and giving trainings on 3D printing to repair worn out equipment: parts for incubators, pipe fittings, molds for metallic parts, minor medical equipment, etc. Practical solutions that Dara Dotz, one of the Champions of the change for making named by the White House in 2016, came to present at the Digital Makers meet-up in Paris on February 6.
“By roping in makers and their skills, Field Ready supplies on demand fabrication in post disaster areas, explains Dara Dotz. It’s a question of transforming humanitarian logistics by using a faster and more reduced fabrication approach.”
3D printing in a crisis situation? Dara Dotz explains that the NGO gives training “to use machines” of course, but the design can also be done remotely: “The initiation to CAD would take too much time. We prefer to challenge the maker community for solutions that come back to us in the form of 3D files.”
Call to makers by a doctor of the Nuwakot hospital (Nepal) for a generator damaged by the 2015 earthquake, via Field Ready:
This way of hacking the classic supply chain in case of humanitarian emergency is contributing to the development of an ecosystem of sharing open hardware. This is what offer the initiatives Humanitarian Maker born in 2016 and Makernet, that appeared in 2015, currently testing its collaborative platform Makepedia with the Kenyan maker community, a project supported by IBM. The Global Humanitarian Lab (GHL), a Swiss NGO founded in 2015 under the aegis of the United Nations, set itself an objective to speed up humanitarian innovation by prototyping, and in this respect, entered into partnerships with the Fab Foundation, Ultimaker or still Field Ready.
On the field, Field Ready has at its disposal printable medical instruments from 3D4MD, a Canadian firm that wants to create an unlimited library of 3D printing for humanitarian use. However, Dara Ditz reminds us us that “3D printers are ill-adapted to mass production,” injection molding is to be favored.
Access to printing materials constitutes another concern that Field Ready addresses through recycling. A solution studied in Tanzania by the Refab Dar program that analyzes the potential of plastic waste for 3D printing.
From Burning Man to Nepal
Makers with a cause stand shoulder to shoulder. Since 2013, the Global Innovation Gathering (GIG) is their international meeting. In Berlin in 2016, the GIG thus brought together some 70 innovators, makers and hackers coming from 25 countries to talk about “hacking humanitarian aid” or “innovation in refugee camps”. The 2017 edition will take place on May 8 and 9. In 2015, the Burners Without Borders, movement born as a support for the victims of hurricane Katrina, offered the equipment for the mobile fablab designed for the Californian festival Burning Man at the Nepal Communitere in Katmandu. This makerspace built on the ruins of the 2015 earthquake hosted in September 2016 a mini Maker Faire dedicated to humanitarian action.
Afrique, land of drones
It isn’t just 3D that is requisitioned in an emergency situation. The drone is also present in an ongoing number of projects for humanitarian emergency. So, among the numerous partners of Global Humanitarian Lab features Redline, drone project for Africa developed at the engineering school of Lausanne. It includes a section of infrastructures, such as marshalling yards for drones. One of these droneports was even prototyped by the architect Norman Foster who exhibited it at the 2016 Venice architecture biennale.
Other American projects from Matternet, Flirtey or still Flyzipline are being tested on the African continent. The Californians of Otherlab for their part imagined a cardboard drone dedicated to medical emergencies, judged serious enough to be finance by Darpa, Darpa, the American defense laboratory.
While waiting for these squadrons to materialize or for projects such as Electree, a plug and play mini-power station imagined by engineer students at Cern in Geneva, to equip the High Commission for Refugees camps, makers are well and truly occupying the humanitarian innovation frontline. Without making too much noise, admittedly, but light: we are thinking here of the DIY lighting fixtures from Liter of Light adopted by many villages without electricity.
The Field Ready website