July 23, 2015 | By Simon

Although we’ve become accustomed to hearing about how additive manufacturing is revolutionizing how products are made and procedures are done in controlled labs or manufacturing environments, one of the greatest strengths of additive manufacturing is in its ability to be done nearly anywhere - including refugee camps.  

While we normally don’t associate 3D printing with areas that are in crisis, it is these areas where the capabilities of 3D printing and other forms of digital fabrication ultimately shine.  

Aiming to bring fab labs to these areas of crisis for refugees - such as those in the Middle East - is a new startup called Refugee Open Ware.  While some may see refugee camps as areas of desertion and devastation, the founders of Refugee Open Ware see possibilities.   

“Our mission is to employ disruptive technology to improve human rights fulfillment for both refugees and host communities in conflict zones,” explains the startup.  

“We seek to attenuate the immediate effects of conflict while driving long-term economic development, productivity growth, venture creation and employment generation … ours is a journey of moonshot humanitarian innovation; with and for the most violent and unstable areas of the planet.”

Among others who have benefitted from the startups deployment include a 24-year-old Syrian refugee named Ahmad who lost his eyesight after being shot across the eyes during the Syrian civil war.  After a fellow refugee came across Refugee Open Ware, he was able to build Ahmad a customized echolocation device - a device that utilizes vibrations to indicate where objects are located in an environment -  that he could wear over his hand for navigating more efficiently.  

"For two years, I haven't felt this feeling — where I walk and know what's in front of me," Ahmad said.

The fellow refugee, Asem, was able to build Ahmad’s echolocation device thanks to Refugee Open Ware’s open fab labs where they teach those in attendance how to create 3D printable models and code, among other skill sets.  Among other applications for the skills include the ability to both create and 3D print their own prosthetic devices due to the high rate of amputations from war-related injuries.  


The company, which was founded by Dave Levin and Loay Malahmeh, aims to establish Refugee Open Ware fab labs with a number of traditional and digital fabrication technologies including traditional wood and metal working tools, laser cutters, vinyl cutters, milling machines, 3D printers, and scanners.  

“We want to take the most advanced technology and put it in the hands of those who need it the most," Levin said.

Currently, the first Refugee Open Ware pilot program is now up and running in Amman, Jordan with plans to further expand the network as they’re able, starting with Turkey and Kurdistan.   

The company is currently interested in getting in touch with those who may want to get involved - including individuals, schools, donors and experts.

Needless to say, despite the civil unrest that may be occurring in these areas, there’s also a lot of good coming, too - layer by layer.  



Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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