Nov 6, 2015 | By Tess

3D printing technology has an undoubtedly far reach within the world, being used in many sectors and industries as well as for personal uses in people’s own homes. Sometimes, however, a story will emerge from somewhere so remote that it reminds us just how far 3D printing technology has reached, and makes us appreciate the truly diverse nature of its utility. One such story has recently come out of Milingimbi, a small island off of Arnhem Land, in Australia’s Northern Territory, where an indigenous community has turned to 3D printing technology to help encourage children’s school attendance.

The program, called Plastic Fantastic, is an effort by the Arnhem Land Progress Association (ALPA) to not only encourage children to attend school, but to also increase their engagement their and have them learning from elders as well as for themselves. The ALPA project coordinator, Lisa Somerville, who came up with the idea explains, “We wanted to create an incentive for kids who go to school 100 per cent of the time and build on that.”  

Essentially, Plastic Fantastic is an initiative which consists of first teaching communities about recycling plastics, and identifying which ones can be reused and turned into 3D printing filament. Two Milingimbi school attendance officers, Leandra Dhurrkay and Jason Wandji have become involved in the project as well, getting the community to be a part of not only recycling the plastics, but effectively cleaning up the community.

“There is lots of plastic around the community,” explains Dhurrkay, “At every camp and in every street there are plastic bottles lying around. It is good that we are using all that.”

From the recycled material, the plastic is put through a shredder and then melted. From there the plastic material is pulled into a thin filament which can be fed into the 3D printer.

The process is especially exciting to many members of the community who have little experience with computers, let alone 3D printing. Jason Wandji expressed his enthusiasm for the project saying, “I have just learned a little bit about using the computer and 3D program. This is the first time I have used computers.”

Within the classroom, the children are given the opportunity to create such objects as sunglasses, toys, and even phone cases. Somerville says, “It is really trying to engage the youth in exciting ways.” The making of the phone cases was an especially popular activity as all the students got involved in finding the proper measurements for their phones.

“It is a bit fantastic, so we have called it Plastic Fantastic,” says Somerville, “We are having fun with it.”

The initiative, which has so far been a success, was presented by Somerville at a conference in Katherine, another town in the Northern Territory. Excitingly, the project was well received and will be soon expanded to two other nearby communities, Ramingining and Galiwinku.

The Arnhem Land Progress Aboriginal Corporation is a non-profit organization that was founded in 1972. What began as a co-operative of community stores in the region has since expanded to become a body operating in over 25 remote towns in Australia, helping to promote development of local indigenous communities in many ways, including education.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Ben Roberts wrote at 11/10/2015 11:35:02 AM:

We're really enjoying this project! So much potential for 3D printing in remote communities from student engagement to localising the supply chain for so many things. We are at Ramingining now with a new group of candidates who are already learning CAD and how to create with 3D printing. Cheers Ben and Heike from Modfab

Ben Roberts wrote at 11/10/2015 6:14:48 AM:

Modfab is thoroughly enjoying this project. It covers all aspects 3D printing, recycling and empowerment.

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