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Field Ready is based on a simple idea: make useful things where they are needed.  It is possible to transform and disrupt current logistical supply chain practices this way.  A good place to try this out is Haiti.  Nearly five years from the devastating earthquake, Haiti remains a place of faltering reconstruction and stunted development.

With three 3D printers in-hand, we arrived in Port-au-Prince thanks to funding from HIF.  The goal of our first of two visits is to establish contacts, assess the situation and run initial tests on a number of angles.

We’re hosted by Haiti Communitere, a hub of cooperation and sustainable development.  Their base near the Port-au-Prince airport provides space for aid and innovation to come together trialing things from the composting toilets that generate cooking gas to hosting 3D printers.  Their support is invaluable as we reach out and look into different possibilities of manufacturing in the field.  Here’s us printing medical disposables:

Field Ready’s Dara Dotz and Eric James in 3D printing in Port-au-Prince

In Port-au-Prince, many logistical challenges remain persistent.  According to one long-time logistician based there, local procurement is typically 200% more than items sourced internationally.  Bringing in items from outside requires shipping, customs clearance and storage which is problematic according to everyone asked on this trip.  As usual, the biggest challenge is simply that staff want goods and supplies as soon as possible.  This “need it today” problem is the bane of procurement specialists the world over.

Mid-way through the trip, we traveled to the center of the country to visit a primary health clinic.  In both, outstanding work is being done under difficult conditions.  The clinic is run by the charity, Real Hope for Haiti, in the village of Cavale, sees hundreds of out patients a day.  They accept infants with alarming rates of malnutrition and other ailments.  They also assist traditional birth attendants (TBAs) with various types of support including clean birthing kits.  These kits can benefit from umbilical cord clamps which are a significant improvement over the current method of using string.  We’ve investigating the approach to working with these TBAs to improve their practices.

We’ve also tried out a few things like the portability of 3D printers like the one shown here.

Currently 3D printers can be “portable” but more work is needed to enhance this possibility

On this short trip, there have been a few (re)discoveries along the way:

  • The Murphy Law’s of Aid Work remain in force until further notice.  This means making allowances for ill – food poisoning, mosquito-borne illness or whatever.
  • Training on something as new as 3D printing has to target the right group.  For starters, basic computers literacy is needed.
  • The heat, humidity and dust are a small challenge but fairly easily overcome.  For instance, the open MakerBot design allows temperature differences to affect printing in progress but blocking
  • Taking a 3D printer as carry-on luggage is not always ideal.  They won’t fit in the overhead bins on B767s airliners.

We’ll return next month prepared to carry out training and install some systems that will be sustainable past the life-time of our current project.

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