Helping Haiti, In 3-D


A U.S. group has come up with an interesting solution to the lack of infrastructure in Haiti: making medical supplies using 3-D printers. NPR’s Rachel Martin interviewed Ashley Dara from iLab Haiti to find out how 3-D printing technology can help improve the lives of  many people in need. See excerpts here with a link to the full article below:

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST: Three years after a devastating earthquake, Haiti is still struggling to recover. The disaster killed health workers, flattened clinics, and the already poor country quickly ran short of medical supplies. Despite massive amounts of aid, needs remain. Critical medical instruments, for example, are difficult to import. But what if they could be produced with the push of a button?

Well, one American aid group has come up with an unlikely solution: using 3D printing technology. Ashley Dara is with iLab Haiti and she just returned from the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. She joined us from her home in San Francisco.

So first off, Ashley, if you don’t mind explaining for those who don’t know, how does 3-D printing work?

ASHLEY DARA: 3D printing is very similar to 2-D printing that we have at home, in the sense that when we use inkjet printers at home, the inkjet leaves out one layer of ink onto our paper. Except with 3D printers, when we lay out a layer of ink or plastic – in this case – it’s layer by layer and it’s built up into a 3-D model. It’s very similar to when we use a hot glue gun, except instead of the hot glue sticks, it’s a spool of plastic filament that continuously is melted through the nozzle and builds up an object layer by layer.

MARTIN: Who are you teaching to use this technology and what are they making?

DARA: Right now, we’re working in Port-au-Prince at a resource center called Haiti Communitere. It’s an area where a lot of locals from Cite Soleil come into work to learn new life skills and job skills. And while I was in Haiti last year, a dear friend of mine was running a hospital all by herself with limited resources. One night she wound up having to deliver five babies and they had no umbilical cord clamps, so they were using their own rubber gloves, cutting them to tie off the umbilical cords, which meant that they went through their rubber gloves and had to then deliver babies barehanded with women that were HIV-positive.

And all I could think was, wow, if we had a 3-D printer, I could’ve been printing on-demand umbilical cord clamps for you. So now our guys, or our students that we work with, are actually learning how to make very simple medical devices.

For full transcript and radio show, see

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