Myan­mar farm­ers reap re­wards from 3D print­ing

Tech­nol­ogy chang­ing the lives of im­pov­er­ished farm­ers

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

YAN­GON:

Whizzing across a blue-lit plat­form with a whirr and a squeak, liq­uid plas­tic em­a­nat­ing from its chrome tip, the 3D printer seems a far cry from the muddy, crop-filled fields that fringe Yan­gon.

But in an in­dus­trial park south of Myan­mar’s com­mer­cial hub, the ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy is now being used to de­sign be­spoke parts that are chang­ing the lives of im­pov­er­ished farm­ers. Myan­mar’s man­u­fac­tur­ing sec­tor was gut­ted un­der five decades of iso­la­tion­ist mil­i­tary rule, forc­ing farm­ers to cob­ble to­gether their own tools or use ill-adapted im­ports. Poor equip­ment has only added to the hard­ships of grow­ing crops in the dis­as­ter-prone coun­try, where farm­ers ac­count for nearly half of the econ­omy’s out­put de­spite being among the poor­est pro­duc­ers in Asia.

But in one cor­ner of Yan­gon, change is afoot. Over at social en­ter­prise Prox­im­ity De­signs, cut­ting-edge 3D printer tech­nol­ogy is being used to de­sign spe­cially adapted tools, in con­sul­ta­tion with the farm­ers who use them.

“We want to cre­ate some­thing that farm­ers find de­light in,” prod­uct de­signer Taiei Ha­ri­moto told AFP at their work­shop, where ro­botic arms line the walls near benches lit­tered with tools and me­chan­i­cal parts. The printer, a small, black, hol­low cube with a nee­dle inside at­tached to a com­puter, has al­ready been put to use help­ing de­sign parts for a sprin­kler sys­tem and the in­ter­nal me­chan­ics for a so­lar pump.

Cre­at­ing pro­to­types in plas­tic means the team can per­fect de­signs for com­plex pieces in the lab, cut­ting out a lengthy back-and-forth that can cost thou­sands of dol­lars.

Once the de­sign has been per­fected, it is then sent off to fac­to­ries in other coun­tries where the fi­nal part is mass pro­duced. “Be­fore it might have taken weeks and some­times months” to make the pro­to­types for each prod­uct, said co-founder Deb­bie Aung Din.

Out in the fields, farm­ers say they are al­ready see­ing their prof­its grow.

On his tiny half-acre plot some 70 miles (100 kilo­me­tres) from Yan­gon, be­tel leaf farmer Kyaw Win said his life has been changed by the 3D prin­t­er­de­signed sprin­kling sys­tem he in­stalled over two months ago.

“Us­ing prod­ucts like this can cut in half the amount of time we have to spend work­ing each day,” the 60-yearold told AFP as he stroked the plants’ wide leaves, which many peo­ple in Myan­mar chew as a stim­u­lant. In­stead of pay­ing la­bor­ers to wa­ter the plants us­ing buck­ets-back-break­ing work that of­ten meant the leaves be­came damp and dis­eased-now he has a tar­geted sys­tem that he can op­er­ate him­self. “We also re­duced our costs by more than half com­pared to what we had to spend be­fore,” he ex­plained. —AFP

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