The MakerLab has partnered with the Marketplace literacy project to see if providing rapid prototyping equipment to consumers in subsistence marketplaces can help create products customized for their needs and even create lively hood opportunities. As part of this experiment, Vishal Sachdev, the director of the Lab visited the village to install a 3D printer and orient the villagers to the possibilities of this new technology. They were immediately seeing possibilities in creating objects such as molds for candle making, and toys as potential sources of income. The Marketplace literacy project also helps mentor women self-help groups in Chennai, which work as cooperatives to support individual members by giving them funds to start small home based businesses. The meetings with these groups also suggested possibilities for leveraging additive manufacturing to create prototypes for products.
The 3D printer installation is an experiment to see if a technology that shortens the lead time from ideas to products, can enable low income, low literacy communities to create products that can create sources of livelihood, or perhaps help solve local problems with local solutions. The executive director of the Lab. Dr. Aric Rindfleisch is also visiting the location soon, so stay tuned for updates.