An Aid Group is 3D-Printing Medical Supplies in Haiti

It's been three years since a massive earthquake ravaged Haiti, and the island nation is still recovering. One large and pervasive obstacle is a lack of supplies—specifically, medical supplies. So iLab Haiti is exploring how 3D printing can be used to just make them on the spot.

The group's Ashley Dara just returned from a trip to the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. She tells NPR:

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.

Right now, iLab is still in the testing period with its 3D-printed supplies. They've made, for example, roughly four prototypes of an umbilical cord clamp using ABS plastic material. But the group wants to make sure the tools are perfectly safe to use on humans before they actually, you know, use them on humans.

The organization is also trying to 3D-print with different materials, such as various cloths and fibers, to make gauze, bags, and so forth. Of course, it's still in the testing phase, but it's always neat to see 3D printing used for very good and very practical purposes. Head over to NPR to hear the entire interview. [NPR]

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