3D4D Challenge: Your ($100K) Chance To Change The World

Water Drop; José Manuel Suárez

Did you know that 1.1 billion people in this world live every day without a supply of clean water, and that 3,900 children die on a daily basis of water borne diseases?1

Something really exciting started this week, and YOU are at the heart of it. In collaboration with MakerBot and the UK-based rapid prototyping firm Econolyst, techfortrade is offering up a $100,000 prize for a groundbreaking, world-changing innovation. This is an opportunity for all of our brilliant readers, you engineers and scientists, moms and dads and kids and everyone in between, to share your ideas for reducing poverty and growing local communities in the developing world.

Consider this — in 2006, the World Health Organization estimated that unsafe injection practices caused 1.3 million early deaths worldwide, or a more sobering “26 million years of life” lost. But an auto-disable syringe now in use in some locations may prevent the possibility that blood-borne diseases spread through contaminated needles. Could you have prototyped that syringe on your MakerBot; or better yet, can you make a better one?

What you need to know

Techfortrade is an organization that aims to energize small businesses in the developing world using mobile phone technologies. Did you know that by 2015, an estimated 400 million mobile phone users in Africa alone will not have electricity regularly supplied by a power grid? Accordingly, entries in the Challenge should

…exploit developments in 3D printing, mobile phone based scanning technology and web based design applications to improve the incomes and livelihoods of people in developing countries.

Are your gears turning yet? Techfortrade offers a couple ideas:

…entries could involve using 3D printed models and parts to improve agriculture practices, water supply or filtration processes, or energy supplies for rural or impoverished areas. An example suggested by techfortrade is creating parts on a 3D printer for broken waterpumps that can then be easily fixed by locals, rather than having to source parts and repairs from elsewhere. The technology could also be used generate income by manufacturing entirely new products from re-cycled plastic.

We’ve seen some great stuff at MakerBot along these lines. For example, this water purification system or the Freedom system that connects rural farmers with 3D printers. But we know there are many more seeds of ingenious devices waiting to be released into the world.

The participating organizations are eager to help participants brainstorm their ideas with each other and with industry experts. MakerBot will be hosting a workshop at our headquarters in New York City, and other events will take place in London, Nairobi, and Johannesburg. We’ll have more details on the New York workshop closer to the day, but here’s the full schedule.

New York, MakerBot Hedquarters – 12th May 2012
Johannesburg, Hackerspace – 22nd May 2012
London, Westminster Hub – 17th May 2012
Nairobi, Nairobi University FabLab– 25th May 2012

Click here for full information on the 3D4D Challenge.


  1. According to the World Water Council []