Every day, we are awash with news of the latest gadgets, product launches and strategic moves of digital giants. In this climate, it’s easy to lose sight of the important role technology can play in improving the lives of people around the world.
Over the past few years, 3D Printing has been transformed from a hobby and traditional manufacturing tool, into a powerful platform for innovators to make a difference to the world around us. Researchers, companies, designers, astronauts and scientists are working towards a way by which these replication mechanisms can build a better nation.
WASProject are one of the groups at the forefront of the movement. Standing for World’s Advanced Saving Project, the company have ambitions soaring as high as their namesake implies, having developed a portable machine which can efficiently create homes out of natural fibres and native soil in underdeveloped countries. Having been manufacturing 3D printers in Italy for a number of years, WASP are funding the project through their existing commercial endeavours – such as the POWERWASP, a 3D printer and CNC milling machine, and DeltaWASP, which prints in a wide range of materials.
And now, the grand reveal of the ‘Big Delta’ – a palm-sized version of which WASP showcased in early October at Italy’s big show and tell, Maker Faire. The printer, minimal in design, fed by a combination of mud and natural fibres such as wool, is capable of building ten feet high, and by extruding the mud mechanically rather than manually, the surface area increases, allowing quicker drying and making houses habitable sooner. Not only that, but the triangular shapes printed between walls reinforce and make for stronger, more resistant dwellings, whilst Big Delta’s flexibility means that architects can let their creativity buzz.
But what about the people building the houses in impoverished countries? With unemployment rates among 15-34 year olds in, for example Kenya, already at 67%, and with over one million young people entering the labour market annually, livelihoods hang in the balance when considering the possibility of hands-on skills being replaced by machines. The question of unemployment is one which would need careful consideration, and a solution or support framework should the printers be implemented in poorer townships and communities.
One way in which companies like WASP could introduce 3D printing to the third world sustainably, would be to offer training programs and an education infrastructure to the nation’s manual workforce, which would compliment the printing technology and teach them how to use, manage and repair the machines, rather than allowing this era of technology to alienate and dehumanise. With an already urgent need to strengthen successful measures for quality skill development and employment creation in developing countries, 3D printing in impoverished areas could open up a realm of possibility for tomorrow’s generation across the world.
Considering WASP’s existing efforts to mould the future of independent housing for the impoverished, we think they’ll go the extra mile to add structural support to the futures of their people, too.
Maybe WASP’s altruistic leap in bringing 3D printing to the third world will mark a technological revolution, a tool of empowerment for the world’s poor. With great printing and power, comes great responsibility, and with some careful thought, these could be exciting times ahead.