Design a 3D printer app, help save lives in Africa

3D design contest for medical tools in Africa

Ultomaker 3D printer
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The moment the open source RepRap 3D printer was created, its potential for helping the developing the world was evident.

The distributed digital production of open source appropriate technology can make a real difference. Research in this area has been heating up with numerous applications from the Enabling the Future's prosthetic hands, to the Waterscope microscope, to more mundane things like organic farm tools.

The ReFab Dar project hopes to accelerate this trend. It is a pilot program that explores how plastic waste can power entrepreneurship using 3D printers in Tanzania. They have built on the early work done by the Michigan Tech Open Sustainability Technology Laboratory's efforts with open source recyclebots to turn plastic waste into 3D printing filament and then into high-value products.

Final designs are due on March 20, and a winner selected by March 31. The winning team will share $500 and have the opportunity to have their design field tested in hospital facilities by doctors. Join by registering: 3DHeals & ReFab Dar 3D Printing Design Hackathon.

Refab Dar

ReFab Dar is asking for help to develop an app for 3D printers to use to make certain medical tools that they can prototype in Africa and refine into products that will save time, lives, and money. Eventually they hope to redefine the entire medical supply chain in Africa.

They are looking for open source designs for products like 3D printed birthing kits, in particular the neonatal aspirators, and a clean alternative for circumcision kits to prevent the spread of HIV. Also on their wishlist are kits for building low-cost electronic diagnostic microscopes. Their focus is to develop tools that touch on each of the main killers that cause the greatest loss of life in Sub-Saharan Africa: malaria, HIV, preterm labor, lack of breath at birth, infection (parasites and bacteria), and stroke. Of course, once designed, the open source medical tools can be 3D printed and used anywhere in the world for pennies on the dollar.

Designers and winners can come from anywhere in the world. So, if you are interested in trying your hand at 3D design for a good cause, perhaps try OpenSCAD (the programmer's solid modeling tool) to make the designs. Make sure to submit to an open 3D repository as well as the contest to get your ideas out to the world.

The two main challenge categories are:

  1. Healthy Mamas and Babies: Prenatal toolkit neonatal aspirators
  2. HIV Prevention: Infant Mogen clamp alternatives, and Prepex placement and removal tools

The final designs are due on March 20, and a winner selected by March 31. The winning team will get to share $500 prize money and will have the opportunity to have their design field tested in hospital facilities by Jhpiego doctors and the chance to become real products that save lives.

Join by registering on 3DHeals & ReFab Dar 3D Printing Design Hackathon. For full rules and regulations, see the 3D Printing Design Hackathon project page.

Check Voices of Africa for more updates.


About the author

Joshua Pearce
Joshua Pearce - Joshua M. Pearce is the John M. Thompson Chair in Information Technology and Innovation at the Thompson Centre for Engineering Leadership & Innovation. He holds appointments at Ivey Business School, the top ranked business school in Canada and the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Western University in Canada, a top 1% global university. At Western he runs the Free...