3D4D Challenge -- What Would You Do With a 3D Printer?
In the spirit of our ongoing #DIY month, today I’d like to introduce you to UK-based charity TechForTrade. They’re getting ready to launch a challenge aimed at making the most of 3D printing technology. 3D printers are fast becoming accessible and increasingly powerful. They can build component parts such as hearing aids, and they’re on their way to becoming an affordable consumer appliance. Some can even build replicas of themselves (the ultimate #DIY).
A Chance For Hyperlocal Manufacturing
3D printers have given rise to a unique type of hyperlocal manufacturing. The ability to create component parts right there on your printer makes more products more accessible in places without a robust infrastructure. Infrastructure, after all, is key to traditional manufacturing; no matter how many great tools you design, no matter how cheaply you manufacture them, you can’t get products to people where there are no roads.
This is where 3D printing technology comes in -- or will, with the help of the upcoming 3D4D Challenge. Imagine a community center in the middle of a town, with public access to computers and the Internet. People already come to gather information, learn, and communicate while they develop essential digital skills. Now, imagine that the community center has a cutting-edge 3D printer capable of producing end-use component parts: vehicle parts, medical implants, telecommunication devices, and even jewelry.
That changes everything, doesn’t it? Local people now have the ability to create and sell manufactured pieces that were once out of reach or out of range.
This is not the stuff of science fiction. As TechForTrade’s William Hoyle points out, the “accessibility of this technology is just happening so incredibly fast. 2012 could be the year when we see the breakthrough of the 3d printer as a consumer appliance.”
Does that spark your imagination? Check out Tech For Trade’s upcoming 3D4D challenge. You don’t have to be a 3D printing expert (not all that many people are). They’re looking for concept papers to introduce additive technology that deliver real social benefit in the developing world.
Beyond the grand prize of $100,000, TechForTrade will help you take your concept from spark to process to implementation. The 3D4D challenge is about bringing together a constellation of resources and actors, from NGOs to academia to local community actors -- all of these players will be essential to the success of the winning concept, so you definitely won’t be on your own.
The challenge officially kicks off the first week of May.