Digital cargo: 3D printing for development at the 'bottom of the pyramid'



Publication Details

Birtchnell, T. & Hoyle, W. (2015). Digital cargo: 3D printing for development at the 'bottom of the pyramid'. In T. Birtchnell, S. Savitzky & J. Urry (Eds.), Cargomobilities: Moving materials in a global age (pp. 199-215). New York, United States: Routledge.


British charity techfortrade led a worldwide competition, the 3D4D Challenge, with the idea that three-dimensional (3D) printing could be transferred to the global South where material poverty endures (Mitlin and Satterthwaite 2013: 14). The 3D4D Challenge championed the introduction of 3D printers into the global South in the same fashion as mobile phones, which have transformed the lives of the poor in many areas of South Asia, Central and South America, the Middle East and Africa. In tackling material poverty in this novel fashion the 3D4D Challenge generated media interest in The Economist (2012), The Independent (Dean 2012), The Guardian (Seager 2013) and at the London 3D Print Show (Reuters 2012). Its supporters include some of the major players in 3D printing today: Bre Pettis (CEO, Makerbot), Kai Backman (CEO, Tinkercad), Dr Adrian Bowyer (Inventor of the RepRap, Bath University), Rupert Godwins (Editor, ZDNet UK), as well as development experts including Steve Haines (Mobilization Director, Save the Children) and Simon Trace (CEO, Practical Action and former International Operations Director, WaterAid). In this chapter we examine the idea that the technical innovation of 3D printing represents a coming transition in the manufacturing and transportation of objects.

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