Solar-Powered 3D Printers a Game-Changer for Developing Countries
We've already seen how 3D printing can tackle plastic waste and even create nutritious food. And now, the ever-expanding technology is also bringing simple yet potentially life-saving devices to people in developing countries.
Joshua Pearce, a materials science and engineering professor at Michigan Technological University, invented the first mobile, solar-powered 3D printer. His website shows a whole range of 3D printing possibilities, such as wind turbines, hand-cranked power generators, medical braces, breast pumps, prosthetic leg covers, water spouts and more.
Incredibly, his designs are open-source, which means people can use, study, copy and change a design for free, he told The Guardian.
The prospect of using solar-powered printers is especially important for locations that have little to no access to electricity or when power has been destroyed by a natural disaster such as an earthquake. As we mentioned previously, about a quarter of the world’s population—1.6 billion people—live without electricity.
It could also produce important devices at pennies to the dollar. For example, Pearce's lab created an open-source 3D printable colorimeter for testing water which cost only $50 and worked just was as well as one costing $2,000.
In Haiti, the nonprofit organization Field Ready and their partners are working to make medical devices as varied as umbilical cord clamps, IV bag hooks, oxygen tank valves and even prosthetic limbs using 3D printers.
In the video below, Dara Dotz, Field Reader designer and co-founder described how a simple umbilical cord clip could be printed out in under 10 minutes. She also pointed out the importance of producing products on-demand in the onset of disasters, such as the 2010 Haitian earthquake.
"During the earthquake, the airport was actually overflowing with a bunch of materials, some of which were not needed," she said. "[But] the tools and medication that were needed couldn't actually get access because of the congestion."
In other sustainability measures, the organization is training and hiring local residents to use 3D printers and also piloting the use of recycled plastics in order to cut waste. They also hope to eventually switch to solar-powered 3D printers, as their current printers run on batteries and generators.
"The items that we can actually manufacture tend to be small but the ability to make many different things is what's really unique about it," Eric James, the director of Field Ready, said. "As long as we have the basic power source and the designs, we can fabricate virtually anything that would be needed."
As 3D printing technology becomes more and more affordable, the possibilities for manufacturing scientific equipment and medical supplies are endless. Peter Bermant, a senior at Park City High School in Utah, used a 3D printer to create a concept syringe that could mix vaccine ingredients as it's injected into a patient, eliminating the need for refrigeration (a costly hurdle for off-grid communities). A University of Washington team of students used 3D printing to turn waste plastic into composting toilets and rainwater harvesting systems.
The video below shows Alois Mbutura, a 21-year-old electrical engineering student at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, who used a MakerBot 3D printer to create an affordable medical device that helps doctors administer intravenous needles to infants. It's said that about 100 of these devices could be produced in a day using the 3D printer.
"The vein finder was actually a solution that the School of Health and School of Engineering partnered to reduce the inability of health care people to find veins in babies and also for it to be economical and suited to Kenya," said Mbutura.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Naomi Larsson
For centuries, the delicate silver dove has been a symbol of love and fidelity.
Biodiversity and Habitat Loss<p>Their near extinction is a symbol of the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-biodiversity-outlook-targets-extinction-summit-new-york-pledge/a-54932895" target="_blank">biodiversity crisis</a> in the UK, largely driven by habitat destruction. Britain is now one of the countries with the most <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/future-of-UK-nature#:~:text=The%20UK%20is%20one%20of,than%20half%20are%20in%20decline" target="_blank">depleted nature</a> in the world according to the World Wildlife Fund. Half its plant and animal species are in decline and more than <a href="https://www.rspb.org.uk/about-the-rspb/about-us/media-centre/press-releases/let-nature-sing-wales/#:~:text=a%20natural%20tragedy.-,Over%2040%20million%20birds%20have%20vanished%20from%20UK%20skies%20in,unaware%20of%20the%20impending%20danger" target="_blank">40 million birds</a> have vanished in just half a century.</p><p>"[Turtle doves] are the canary in the [coal] mine because there are all these other species before it and after it," said Tree. "It's an umbrella for all the other species that are heading that way."</p><p>Turtle doves migrate south through Europe to sub-Saharan Africa between July and September, ending up in dry woodland and farmland areas of countries like Mali and Senegal for winter. </p><p>Droughts in West Africa and the Sahel region are believed to have contributed to the fall in turtle dove species recorded in northern Europe, with low rainfall reducing supplies of the seeds and insects the birds rely on for energy for the long journey home.</p>
Conservation and Farming<p><a href="https://www.operationturtledove.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Operation Turtle Dove,</a> a partnership project of charities including the Essex Wildlife trust, works with landowners and farmers to actively build turtle dove habitat.</p><p>Outten works with <a href="https://www.ebws.org.uk/birdsites/blue-house-farm-ewt-north-fambridge" target="_blank">Blue House Farm</a>, a 660-acre nature reserve in the UK county of Essex, where they have replicated weedy fallow plots. </p><p>"We work on it every year to make sure it's in the condition it needs to be with plants such as clovers and black medic," Outten said. "These plants are native to the landscape and produce the seed the birds feed on." </p><p>The birds eat a wide range of seeds from various plants that would have been abundant 50 or 100 years ago, added Guy Anderson, program manager for species recovery with The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). </p><p>"But it's simply true that with the gradual process of <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/farming-without-pesticides-how-can-we-make-agriculture-greener/a-52216796" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intensifying our agricultural production</a>, the availability of those seeds has dropped and dropped," said Anderson.</p><p>Part of the project includes supplementary feeding — providing sources of food in the form of seed or grain. Under the Countryside Stewardship Scheme in England, farmers can receive financial support to create a turtle dove habitat. </p><p>Though they haven't recorded an increase in doves across the sites in the four years of working on the project, Outten said they are seeing improvements in how landowners and farmers manage habitat for the birds. </p>
A Turtle Dove Haven<p>The 3,500-acre Knepp Estate in West Sussex is another project taking a different approach and one of the few places where turtle dove numbers are increasing.</p><p>Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell converted their intensively farmed land into a rewilding project almost 20 years ago. They have let the land return to nature.</p><p>Just one year after they'd finished <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/uks-most-talented-architects-are-not-human/a-35952128" target="_blank">rewilding</a> the southern part of their property, they heard turtle doves for the first time. It's now a breeding hotspot for the birds with an estimated 19 pairs. Knepp is also home to <a href="https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/rewilding/rewilding-projects/knepp-estate" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2% of the UK's population</a> of nightingales. </p><p>Tree is critical of supplementary feeding schemes that, in her view, are short term. She questions the chances of turtle doves getting to feed on scattered seeds before other mammals eat them first.</p>
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