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British company PrintLab is all about education. A provider of 3D printing products to both schools and businesses, PrintLab is known for its classroom curricula and initiatives, helping schools to set up 3D printing labs and teachers to educate themselves so that they can educate students. PrintLab’s educational outreach goes far beyond the traditional classroom, however. Recently, the company, along with fellow UK company Free_D, held a series of 3D printing workshops for disadvantaged women in India.

Free_D’s mission is to support and provide skilled training to disadvantaged Indian women and girls, many of whom have been victims of sex trafficking or are at high risk of being trafficked. The organization trains the women in 3D printing with the goal of having them start small businesses. In February, Free_D and PrintLab traveled to India to offer a series of workshops in CAD and 3D printing, reaching out to several organizations including women’s shelters and programs such as Kshamata.

Many of the women in the workshops had never touched a computer before.

“The women we worked with at Kshamata were initially fearful of engaging with computers: mostly they were computer illiterate and very scared of breaking the hardware or getting things wrong,” said Katherine Prescott of Free_D. “By the end of the first afternoon, they were laughing and comfortable creating and sharing their own designs. It was fantastic to watch the women form groups to help each other learn, create and experiment with different tools and techniques in the CAD software.”

The workshops included 3D printing demonstrations, as well as hands-on CAD training using programs including Tinkercad, Meshmixer and 123D. PrintLab provided curriculum materials including the “Make Your Own Cookie Cutter” lesson from Makerversity DIY, and the women were able to go through the full process from CAD to 3D printing.

“They asked really pertinent questions that I would have been impressed with if they had come from someone with a formal education and some experience with design for 3D printing,” said Sia Mahdavi of Free_D. “For example, we were having a conversation about build angles and support structures (which is already quite difficult to understand) and one of the girls asked about support structures within hollow objects. I didn’t think for a second I would be having a conversation at that level, even after 2 months of training. This was after just 3 days, what could they do in 6 months?”

We’ll find out, because the workshops weren’t just a one-off project. Later this year, Free_D plans to train 10 women to become artisan jewelry makers using 3D printing, in a pilot program undertaken in partnership with Kshamata. The women will learn the full process of designing and creating jewelry in 3D, including design thinking, CAD, 3D printing, lost wax casting and finishing. Orders will start being taken in the beginning of 2018.

All of the women in the pilot program will earn a fair trade wage for their time spent learning and making jewelry, and will benefit from guidance in starting a business as well as learning valuable technical skills such as CAD and 3D printing. If the pilot program succeeds and expands, it will mean a fresh start and a chance at success for many women. Discuss in the PrintLab Free_D forum at 3DPB.com.

[Images provided to 3DPrint.com by PrintLab]

 





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