Last summer, 3D printing fan Joshua Pearce from Michigan Technological University got fed up with the 3D printing coverage he saw in the media. Mainstream sites were latching onto the story of the world's first 3D printed gun (never mind that the printed guns can blow up while you're in the process of firing them). Pearce wanted to give 3D printing some better press, something positive that would stick in the minds of people everywhere and let them know that while this may be a disruptive technology, it does not have to be a destructive one. Thus, the 3D Printers for Peace contest was born. The contest was so successful and garnered so much positive press that the University of Michigan decided to host it again this year. They've just announced the winners for the 2013 competition and there are some extraordinary ideas here.
This year's third prize was awarded to Aaron Meidinger who created a 3D printed Braille tablet. The tablet features interchangeable pieces which can be used to help a sighted person teach Braille to someone who cannot see. The pieces feature both the Standard English alphabet and the Braille equivalent. As the third place winner Meidinger received a MatterHackers sampler pack full of 3D printer materials like 3 PRO Series PLA spools, Laywoo-D3, Nylon, and Soft PLA.
Second place in the 3D Printers for Peace Contest was awarded to Michigan Tech student Matt Courchaine for the creation of a Solar Powered Water Purification Cone. According to Courchaine's official description of the project, "The white, semi transparent plastic cover of the solar cone allows sunlight to pass through it and evaporate dirty water contained in the black base tray. Clean water then condenses on the cooler white plastic of the cone and drips into a holding reservoir, which is part of the cone for later drinking." As the second place winner Courchaine received Michigan Tech's MOST version of the RepRap Prusa Mendel open-source 3D printer kit.
This year's top prize in the 3D Printers for Peace contest went to John Van Tuyl of Hamilton, Ontario. Tuyl invented 3D printable beads which can be given to children in developing countries as proof of which vaccines they have received. Pearce, who was one of this year's judges, was particularly impressed with the VaxBeads concept. "John demonstrated the ability of 3D printing to address a real need in the developing world. You could print beads fast enough to hand to children, and if they were to wear the necklace to the doctor's office, it would be quick and easy to identify missing vaccinations."
As the first place winner Van Tuyl will receive a fully assembled, open-source Type A Machines Series 1 3D Printer.
This is not the first time 3D printing has been used to benefit people in developing countries. Several intrepid individuals are using the technology to help farmers 3D print their own tools, to provide clean drinking water to entire communities and even to treat cervical cancer in Africa.