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what do you think about when you think about open hardware? 3d printers, electronics products people experimenting and learning by trial and error community built open science hardware, flood detection and air quality monitors
i work for an organisation which uses open hardware in the most challenging contexts. Field Ready is a humanitarian NGO and we make essential items where they are needed in crisis situations, such as after a natural disaster or in a refugee camp. We combine appropriate, low tech ideas with digital manufacturing like 3d printing and CNC.
we have different challenges. Making do with less than ideal materials, or equipment. making items that are needed urgently, and still making them good quality and safe. And we’re pioneering, learning - we’re finding ways to make supplies that might not have been made locally before
I have colleagues right now in the Caribbean responding to the Hurricane. when they make an item from an open design, to save or preserve life, they need to know it’s going to work, that the 3d printer will make a good print, or that the instructions for assembling an item they’ve not made before are ok
and when you are printing in a truck in the monsoon in a displaced persons camp - like my colleague Abi here - you don’t want to have to do trial and error to get a successful print the power of open hardware is that Abi’s not limited to things she’s designed herself, she can use the many shared designs. but they need to work
when you’re making a really safety critical item, you don’t just make it, you test it. Here’s a rescue crew using commercial lifting airbags to raise a truck
we’ve designed and made search and rescue airbags, they are made locally from available materials and tools, in Syria. And we have tested these - we actually tested to the equivalent of the British Standard, it’s an appropriate standard which the rescue teams respect, our airbag lifts 5 tonnes. we’ve made over a hundred bags which are being used in rescues and saving lives.
even something simple like a pipe fitting can be really useful. we’ve made them in Nepal. it’s a simple item but there’s lots to think about. - will it hold the pressure, will the plastic be ok for drinking water if the water sits in it for a while? we do a risk assessment - who here has done a risk assessment for something? right, it’s not a huge admin thing, it’s just thinking through: what’s the situation where we’ll use an item, what are the risks in making it, what might go wrong in use? Do we need to change anything to make it safer or more reliable?
this is field ready’s vision. in every humanitarian crisis, people have what they need, where they need it, when they need it. local manufacturing makes this possible but you need more than a basic open hardware design. You need more information, about risks, about testing.
because at scale, helping millions of people affected by disasters and conflict, it’s folks who are not design or manufacturing engineers, making stuff. that’s part of this community’s shared vision, right, more people empowered to make. and it’s getting easier, we have tools like 3d printers that get us closer to that vision. Here’s Johnson, who we trained in haiti after the quake, training others to use the 3DPrinters. passing on the skills
and it means folks manufacturing in less ideal places - maybe dusty, or humid, high altitude, with intermittent power or connectivity, like here in rural south sudan
maybe it means making do with less than ideal materials. when is it ok to use recycled filament? Or to recycle other materials - maybe you have excess of them, or maybe that’s all you have - into raw material for goods, which might be printed, or injection moulded, or formed in other ways? Do you still get a good enough quality item?
so for this vision of all kinds of people in tough situations making the things they need, you need the designs to work well, you need the instructions to be solid and clear to people across cultures…. Maybe you need to know when it’s good to use one design rather than another.
so now you are probably thinking that we’re making our lives way too difficult. Why aren’t we just shipping in the items? aeroplanes bringing in the supplies, like you see on the news after a disaster
a few reasons but let’s start with the most important we often work where supply chains don’t
these are our Syrian engineers in their workshop. They’ve got some supplies, but You can’t just FedEx stuff there
supply chains break. maybe your border is blockaded or there’s really huge taxes on finished goods. maybe there’s a flood and the bridge that connects your village to the rest of the world is down. maybe there are armed bands roaming in your region so goods aren’t reaching you for a few months. if you can make stuff locally you are more resilient.
often, it’s easier or cheaper to access raw materials than finished items. You still need the means of production, a tool or machine. then you get to prioritise, there on the ground, what you need.
(particularly useful for repair parts.. we are often asked to repair a high value asset such as a power system or hospital equipment (like this design we used to fix baby warmers in a clinic) - this is donated equipment, you can’t get spare parts anywhere any more because it’s obsolete. But if you have the means of production, that’s OK. you can still make it. (maybe you design it; maybe you have a digital design). (and obviously the same goes for the manufacturing machines we use - open designs mean we can repair in the field)
traditional aid supply chains are also super complex and expensive and slow. 60-80% of the aid budget goes on logistics and despite this incredible spend many people don’t get the supplies they need when they need them.
we simplify it
and shipping stuff in isn’t great for the existing local economy. remember ethiopia in the 80s? famine, trucks bringing in american grain, rolling past fields where they are actually growing grain, but now the market is destroyed, farmers can’t sell grain. dumping. well, shipping in aid supplies damages the local market just the same. Better to make locally
there’s a few things needed to achieve this vision. Field Ready works on all of these. but today i’m focusing on the things and the info about them So, how can we get reliable designs, complete instructions, and an understanding of the risks of making and using a design? we’re a small organisation - we wondered if maybe others could help, and so we catalysed the creation of humanitarian makers,
a global network of designers and engineers. We started off thinking that help with design could be useful; CAD is pretty difficult and time consuming and maybe remote help could assist those responding on the ground. and that has helped a bit - but the challenge is that doing good human centric design needs great info, or some back and forth, and we’ve found it’s tough for relief workers to work with community designers effectively. (even when we’re working in more stable recovery and reconstruction phases)
But what about the community as testers? as people trying designs, reporting if they can be made successfully in different places (maybe using slightly different tools, different raw materials)? Even just knowing what raw materials are what, if folks in different places call things different names. seeing if they can follow someone else’s instructions and get a good result (and perhaps improving documentation, towards the dream - step by step guides with photos or video). Checking if the item is actually useable for its intended purpose.
so in the next few months we’re trialling that with Humanitarian Makers.. intuitively it feels like it might be good for some makers, who feel more confident testing an existing design, than designing from scratch. so we’ll see.
we do testing ourselves too! Here’s our fetoscope,
we’ve tested it in practice with clinicians, who otherwise didn’t have access to a fetoscope. it’s useful and effective. But it’s not formally tested or certified.
here’s our engineer Ram in a health post handing over some supplies. Now you see these fetoscopes are in bags…think about a medical item that needs to be sterile, like the umbilical cord clamp, which you use to clamp off the cord after a birth to stop infections. which in many places kill a lot of infants. (this is Field Ready’s origin story, work in Haiti 2y after the quake. when disasters stop being in the news, donations of aid drop off)
in an ideal world, your clamp is sterile, wrapped, just like this. in Haiti when we arrived they were using shoelaces and bits of string. we could give them a 3d printed clamp (here’s one, which we codesigned onsite), it’s better than string, not as good as this. Good enough? medics are not often biomedical engineers, they don’t know what different manufacturing processes might mean for an item, what the different risks might be with something made differently.
and you also see this ideal clamp has a bunch of certifications, great if you are making them repeatedly in a factory; quite different if you’re making locally. How can we understand what’s needed in terms of quality and how to demonstrate it, if conventional standards processes don’t apply so well?
but there’s also stuff to think about for the people making the item. when we 3d print a clamp, we use new filament, not recycled. we wear sterile gloves and we bag it as soon as it’s off the printer. that might not be obvious to someone just downloading the print file. so you need to think about explaining risks - for manufacturing the item, for testing the item, for using and maintaining the item. Remember, there won’t always be a skilled engineer there to help in all the places we’d like this to happen and risks aren’t always obvious!
- trivial example - a scalpel handle - mentions the need to check materials and the risk of cutting yourself :)
So we’re imagining a world where our open hardware platforms evolve to have a lot more info in them - more about testing, more about risk. And where they support more collaboration too - maybe sharing test processes, sharing test results, to explain when this item is good enough (and when it’s not)
thingiverse is our go to platform today, but this otoscope needed structured documentation which we put on appropedia This otoscope - actually a really nice example, we remixed a design from appropedia, worked with clinicians to make it better, and it’s actually been found and made by others, in Gaza, and we’re getting improvements back from them
there’s lots of info here, and there’s even a rating as “prototyped” in Open Source Appropriate technology terms. But there’s a way to go. Appropedia is a wiki; version control of design files would be good too. because sometimes you might want to know a specific version + instructions are 100% good.
this is the Oxfam bucket, renowned in the humanitarian sector, you can see a lot of thought has gone into making this a safe reliable bucket. We can imagine Oxfam certifying a specific design and manufacturing process as delivering a bucket that meets their particular specification (they actually do that now, but it’s for a factory somewhere else)
So - how can an authorised body mark a specific version of a design as safe and approved in a design sharing platform? What do traditional, factory tested or audited standards look like in a hyperlocal manufacturing context? Just because people are in great need doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a safe, good quality item.
So we’ve got our certified design for a bucket. do you trust just anyone to make it correctly? Or maybe you want only authorised makers who you know are qualified and capable? You don’t want someone getting a bucket that looks like the proper one but actually isn’t because it wasn’t made right. can the maker prove they carried out the required tests? if you are making safety critical supplies it’s an issue.
And if someone get an item that breaks or causes harm in some way, who is liable? is it the maker, the tester, the designer, the funder? this matters when you think about aid supplies that might be purchased by a big NGO or agency, the sort of organisation that has funds and huge reach to refugee camps and disaster responses, but also expects to have a clear picture of legal stuff like who is responsible and liable for what.
we don’t have answers to all these questions yet. our use case - distributed manufacturing, at a hyperlocal scale, of open hardware which may be used in life saving or life preserving contexts, is new What processes do we need for local manufacturing to provide good quality items? Where things could go wrong, what happens? but there’s huge potential - to get millions of people access to items they need when and where they need them
So we’re bringing together humanitarians and engineers and designers, to have real impact. Finding ways to talk about quality and risks and standards creating new ways to test designs and manufacturing methods
i’d love to see us sharing the load of risk assessments too - helping each other spot opportunities for better, safer and more reliable practices. With more eyes, all bugs are shallow folks in the field, working in disaster response and in recovery and reconstruction, need your help to ensure they’ve got the tools and information they need
Next time you’re looking for a project, instead of starting a new design that will take ages to finish, think how you could make a real difference by testing, evaluating or helping document an existing project - a bitesize contribution to a global challenge
let’s make testing stuff cool. We celebrate inventors a lot. we should celebrate the contributions of folks who are testing and documenting too. There’s going to be a lot of testing and documentation to get open hardware designs which can be made locally for the numerous non food items people in crisis require. and we need to talk about standards too.
we want to deliver the power of local manufacturing of open hardware to the millions of people around the world who need it most. To give them the supplies they need, more people need to be able to make good quality stuff reliably and safely, even if they don’t have the ideal skills or materials or equipment. We can all help with this.
Open hardware summit 2017: open hardware for humanitarian aid
in humanitarian aid
Laura James @LaurieJ @FldRdy
what do you think about
when you think about
in every humanitarian crisis,
people have what they need,
where they need it,
when they need it
when they need it
when they need it
when they need it
of open hardware for critical needs
means we need new thinking
about safety standards, certifications
and ways to demonstrate
quality and reliability
quality and reliability
quality and reliability
open docsopen risk
open docsopen risk