When new technology reaches its ascendancy, a question is posed. Can it be used to improved the lives of less fortunate? Specifically, those people that live in lesser developed countries? Sure, the latest Shamwow doesn’t apply – but what about more expansive and innovative technologies? Like 3D printing? Well certainly. But you have to find applications. Appropriate applications. Thus the 3D4D Challenge was created, if only to find and fund the best ideas that are out there… to the tune of 100,000 big ones. And last week, the finalists were announced! And guess who’s in?

Re-Char WOOF (Washington Open Object Fabricators), Bethany Weeks and Luke Iseman, USA 

An off-grid 3D printing system, which recycles plastic bags to produce tools for local farmers.

Boris Kogan, Israel/US 

A small scale, easy-to-manufacture and assemble robotic greenhouse which will enable local communities to produce good food with ease, even in the most difficult environmental conditions. 

Climate Connected Benefit Society, ColaLights, Edmund Bell-King and Cornell Jackson, UK

Solar lamps created from used plastic Coke bottles using 3D printed ‘bottle caps’ and attachments for the charger, battery and PCB components. These lights will replace expensive and dangerous kerosene ones to use in rural areas throughout India.

Fripp Design and Research, Tom Fripp and Steve Roberts, UK  

The use of 3D printing technology to enable the developing world to rapidly manufacture soft tissue prosthesis, at minimal expense.

The EN3D Project, JF Brandon, Canada 

A simple, 3D printed solar tracker that is more efficient, cheaper and easier to manufacture than existing models, which will provide sustainable solar electricity to local communities.

Roy Ombatti, Kenya

Specially designed 3D printed shoes produced from recycled plastic to be worn by individuals suffering from foot deformities due to the growing problem of jigger fly infestation – in order to prevent further deterioration.

Just 3D Printing, Suchismita and Jayant Pai, India 

Providing young entrepreneurs and students access to 3D printers using material recycled from disused plastic bottles, in order to encourage innovation.

Hey wait, is that me there? That’s right everybody – I’m a finalist for the 3D4D Challenge. I’m actually doing more than just making a 3D Printable Solar Tracker, but figuring out a way of connecting the Crowd with FabLabs in Developing Countries to create useable products.

I just released a design challenge on GrabCAD for an LED Light Bottle (ok – I did not know that someone was doing the same thing until after the release – it’s an experiment to prove the larger idea). So far, lots of comments and a number of users are coming up with cool concepts – one of which I’ve previewed and is absolutely amazing (I’m going to post more 🙂

The way I see it, 270,000 Engineers and Designers could change the World if we’re going the right direction and have the right PLM system, as well as a top notch FabLab and operating 3D Printers. I can’t wait to present in October in London. By the way, October 19th. 3D Printshow. If you’re a Solidsmack reader – I’ll see you there!