Pakistan floods: innovations and guidance for the response.

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Against the background of a global rise in the number of people affected by disasters/complex emergencies, it has been estimated that 60-80% of the income of aid agencies is spent on logistics[1] (defined as the procurement, transport, warehousing and distribution of food, water, materials and equipment, etc).


3D printing has the potential to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the humanitarian logistic (HL) response by reducing lead times, avoiding nugatory ‘just in case’ transport and warehousing, and using postponement techniques to manufacture locally to meet an identified need.

This innovation is aimed at improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the logistic processes by:

  • Avoidance of the transport and warehousing of items that are not subsequently required.
  • Local manufacture of items to meet an identified need thereby avoiding procurement and transport delays.
  • Use of a single source material that does not require special packaging and/or handling, has a high mass:volume ratio, and from which multiple items can be produced.
  • Production of bespoke items that are not readily available as spare parts.
  • Introduction of operational benefits (such as in line filtration) which cannot easily be created using mass production (injection moulding) techniques.

Thus, while 3D printing is not an innovation of itself, this technology has yet to be used in a humanitarian programme setting.


The results will be disseminated:

  1. Within the Humanitarian Logistics community at large via the Humanitarian Logistics Association (HLA) which is the professional body for humanitarian logisticians.
  2. Within the academic community via a refereed journal article in an appropriate publication such as the Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management.
  3. Through the internal mechanisms of the host organisation (Oxfam GB).
  4. By feedback to the equipment manufacturers with the aim of developing a set of 3D printers which are optimised for field operations.

NB. This project is being carried out simultaneously with the ‘Making humanitarian supplies in the field‘ HIF-funded project by Field Ready. Where possible the two projects will share results and learning to greater inform the evidence surrounding the use of 3D printing in humanitarian crises.

[1] Tatham, P.H., and Pettit, S.J. (2010), “Transforming humanitarian logistics: the journey to supply network management”, International Journal of Physical Distribution and Logistics Management, Vol. 40 No. 8/9, pp. 609-622.
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16 Nov 2014

With a goal of implementing 3D printing into Oxfam’s WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) Programme and, thereby, reducing the costs and improving the speed through which replacement parts can be provided in the field, a team lead by Professor Peter Tatham from Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, are piloting a project with Oxfam GB based from their Kenya offices.


Read the project's findings

Read the 'Three dimensional printing – a key tool for the humanitarian logistician?' article published in the Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management.

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