There are a lot of issues in the world today revolving around water. All living things need it to survive, and it’s getting harder to find in consumable form thanks to pollution and drought, as well as the poverty and isolation that prevent many communities around the world from being able to access proper sanitation. At Deakin University, a group of engineers have come up with an idea to attack two of those problems at the same time, with help from 3D printing.
The first part of the project, spearheaded by engineers at the university’s Centre for Advanced Design in Engineering Training (CADET), involves collecting plastic garbage from around the Pacific Islands and turning it into pellets, which will then be extruded as 3D printer filament. That’s an idea that we’ve seen many times before, but CADET has a very specific plan for the filament that they will be creating from the plastic waste.
A big obstacle to clean water in developing countries is the fact that when sanitation equipment or basic plumbing components break, they don’t have easy access to the parts needed to repair the equipment. CADET wants to supply these communities with the means to replace the parts themselves by 3D printing them, using recycled plastic garbage. A crowdfunding campaign is currently trying to raise AUD$30,000 to develop and test a prototype for a portable 3D printer that will be trialed by communities on the Solomon Islands, who can easily transport the printer back and forth as needed. Children’s charity Plan International Australia will be the first recipient.
“The important part of this project is its sustainability,” said research fellow Dr. Mazher Mohammed. “Not only will the printer be able to use plastic rubbish found nearby, but it will also run off a solar powered battery.”
Dr. Mohammed was part of the Deakin team that created a 3D printed ear for a woman who had lost hers in a car accident more than 55 years ago. He’s an expert in 3D printing, and believes that the technology is key in solving the water crisis. The project, called 3D WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene), hopes to hit a stretch goal of $70,000 take the work further. The engineers want to work directly with the communities to identify the types of plastics that can be recycled for 3D printing, as well as creating a library of 3D printable parts and operation manuals to help the communities become self-sufficient in repairing and replacing sanitation and plumbing equipment as needed.
“In the streets of Honiara, there is plastic literally everywhere,” said Tom Rankin, Plan International Austalia’s water, sanitation and hygiene manager. “It clogs up the drains and flows out into the sea, killing marine life. Our aim is to turn this plastic into useful parts.”
Learn more about 3D WASH below: