3D Printer Brings Vision to the Poor

The same week that I found all the articles on 3D printers I found an amazing example that could dramatically improve life for billions of people in developing countries who cannot access, nor afford, prescription glasses.

Last weekend I went to get a new optical prescription so I could buy new contacts. The technician used fully automatic devices to check me for glaucoma and calculated my prescription. I had experienced the glaucoma device but the prescription device was new to me. I instantly knew how it worked just from seeing it. The machine reflects a pattern off your eye then adjusts lenses in the device until the reflected pattern matches the original. Incredibly, quick easy and cheap!

My mind raced through all the potential innovations stemming from this device. I came up with a long list which I’ll get to in a moment. What I am more excited about is an extremely innovative application of this same technique. In 2002 a student at MIT used a similar technique as part of a system to make glasses for the poor. This was exactly what I had thought of. This innovation went from an idea in 2002 to commercial usable device in 2006. That is amazing.

One of the reasons the idea was developed in such a short time was the use of a 3D printer to create a prototype. But probably even more important was it solved a previously impossible problem and opened up a gigantic market. There are 1 billion people who need inexpensive glasses. Market for low cost glasses

There are two obstacles to providing eye glasses to people in developing countries. Read more

3D Print a House

January 24, 2007 · Posted in abundance, economics, innovation, sharing · 1 Comment 

There are so many elements to this article that I need to break it up into a series.
Just last month on the Interactive Technology radio program I mentioned 3D printers that can manufacture things on demand. I also pointed out that China needs houses and the Detroit auto industry needs new markets and suggested Detroit pre-fabricate houses for China.

Now I find an instance of the 3D printer designed to make buildings.

And I find someone making a 3D printer to make more 3D printers.

And you can make your own 3D printer for $2400. And this is their project Wiki for the open source 3D printer.

I am very excited by the development of 3D printer technology. This makes new innovation easier and quicker. The open source 3D printer makes this technology available to more people and empowers them to be innovators. More people with access to this technology mean more perspectives on innovation leading to more, better and faster innovation.

And this new technology that is moving 3D printers past prototyping and into manufacturing changes work from physical labor to mental. Design is now the only work needed.

“Khoshnevis believes his contour crafter will revolutionize building construction, dragging it into the digital age. Today, despite the advent of tech tools like power saws, mechanized cranes, and pneumatic nailers, construction is essentially the same tiring, gritty job it has been for 20,000 years. Workers still have to cut, grasp, hoist, place, and fasten materials, which is why labor accounts for about half of a building’s cost. The process is dangerous, slow, and wasteful: More than 400,000 American construction workers are injured each year, and a typical American house takes at least six months to complete, generating about four tons of waste.”

Everything he says is absolutely true. Unfortunately the entire structure of the industrialized economy depends on people working to get paid. If people don’t need to work then they won’t get paid. That is very bad. This doesn’t mean this type of technology won’t catch on and it doesn’t mean it shouldn’t catch on. It does mean huge disruption. Disruptions of this type typically are resisted with violence and that harms everyone. I hope to spread the ideas that I discovered to make these innovations a win-win-win.

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