Nov 29, 2015 | By Alec

While 3D printing is increasingly being discovered as a fantastic tool to help the needy in developing countries, for instance through 3D printed homes and agricultural tools, charity organization Water is Life might have come up with the most life-changing 3D printing solution of all: making water safe to drink. Currently, more than a billion people on the planet don’t have access to clean drinking water, while 1 in 5 children under the age of 5 die each day due to waterborne diseases. In fact, more than 2 billion lives could be saved annually simply through clean drinking water. In short, Water is Life is aiming for nothing more than the most ambitious goal in the world, and 3D printing is a key tool in that process.

Together with creative agency DDB North America, they have come up with something called The Drinkable Book, a book with actual pages written in whatever language is spoken in the country it is sent too. Each of the thick pages is covered with clean drinking water tips, and can be torn out to act as a filter. Placed in a 3D printed container, contaminated water can be poured through it to make it safe to drink.

Of course, this doesn’t rely on ordinary paper – otherwise this humanitarian crisis would’ve been solved a long time ago. Instead, these thick pages have been invented by McGill University & University of Virginia chemist, Dr. Theresa Dankovich, and are almost a type of bacteria-killing coffee filter. Coated with silver nanoparticles, 99% of all cholera, E. coli and typhoid bacteria – all killers that are carried in water in the developing world – are killed, making water safe to drink. In fact, the water quality is comparable to tap water in the US afterwards. And kept in a 3D printed container that doubles up as a filter holder, it is a cheap package that is also very easy to use.

According to its developers, a simple book with twenty pages has the ability to provide enough clean water for a single person for up to a year. ‘The Drinkable Book’s filter paper will revolutionize water purification. It costs only pennies to produce, making it by far the cheapest option on the market. Each filter is capable of giving someone up to 30 days’ worth of clean water. And, each book is capable of providing someone with clean water for up to one year,’ says Matt Eastwood, CCO of DDB New York.

Water is Life founder Ken Surritte added that most people in the third world currently don’t even realize that their drinking water is killing them, so an educational book-form is a perfect medium to help them. ‘A staggering 3.4 million people die each year from a water related disease and, in most of the cases, the victims didn’t know the water was unsafe to drink in the first place. Therefore, ‘The Drinkable Book’ isn’t just a tool that purifies water, it teaches proper sanitation, too,’ he says. The first edition, intended for use in Kenya, has been printed in English and Swahili (with edible ink, of course).

Scientist Theresa Dankovich further said that they will be working together with local communities and organizations to set up educational programs and help people as best they can. ‘Through community driven and community engaged integrated water, sanitation and hygiene programs, WATERisLIFE is working to save lives and transform communities. WATERisLIFE works closely with non profit organizations, local governments and partners to focus on an integrated approach to ensure that households, schools and medical facilities have access to safe water, proper sanitation and hygiene programs,’ she says.

Unusually, however, this is one initiative where you can wonder why they chose to use 3D printing technology. ‘WATERisLIFE chose to manufacture the filter box by means of 3D printing; though 3D printing is proven to be cost effective on the long run, the results have yet to proliferate as would injection molding,’ they state on their website. Presumably, it was done to make low-volume production possible, though they will probably switch to injection molding once this project really takes off.

And we certainly hope it does. The team is currently conducting field tests and is raising funds, hoping to reach a commercial release at the end of the year or the beginning of the next. While this isn’t the perfect solution for drinking water – solids, chemicals can’t be filtered out yet – it’s a perfect start that will help so many people out there. If you’re interested in doing your bit or donating, check out the Water is Life website here.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Jack Tako wrote at 1/27/2016 3:28:07 PM:

This is a very noble project with an ingenious design. That's why I think your figure of 2 billion lives could be saved through clean water does the project a disservice. The figure seems wrong (i.e. 2 billion seems too high) considering the world's population is estimated to be 7.4 billion in 2016. Thanks again for highlighting and helping in this wonderful cause.

Cullen Hilkene, 3Diligent wrote at 11/30/2015 6:02:28 AM:

Fantastic initiative. Please drop us a line at might be able to contribute an in-kind donation for some of your 3D Printing efforts and would like to discuss further.

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