Jan 18, 2018 | By Benedict

Singapore-based Hamilton Labs is developing 3D printable toilets to help improve poor sanitary conditions in India. The toilets, which will be made with Hamilton’s robotic HamilBot Mark 1 3D printer using a recycled cement mix, will be used in the Madhubani and Darbhanga districts in Bihar.

It’s no secret that poor sanitation is a big problem in many areas of India, the second most populous country in the world. UNICEF, the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund, estimates that around 524 million people in India, almost half its total population, do not have access to toilets and must therefore use public areas. This situation results in an unacceptable number of deaths due to poor sanitary conditions.

The solution, recognized by all, is the creation proper toilets, and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has pledged to rid the country’s culture of open defecation by 2019. The year marks the 150th anniversary of the death of Mahatma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement against the British Empire. But with 2019 fast approaching, the country needs to work fast in order to meet its ambitious target. So far, around 60 million new toilets have been built, but around 40 million more are needed.

Working with Singapore’s National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster (NAMIC), a collaborative 3D printing scheme organized by Nanyang Technological University (NTU), the National University of Singapore (NUS), and the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), Singapore’s Hamilton Labs could be about to contribute massively to India’s sanitary project.

Hamilton has signed an agreement with India’s Center for Rural Information and Action (CRIA) to use one of its robotic 3D printing systems to build 3D printed concrete toilets in Madhubani and Darbhanga in Bihar, a state that belongs to both Northern and Eastern India. The  company says its robotic 3D printer, the HamilBot Mark 1, is capable of building “fast, beautiful, and comfortable toilets.”

It seems that Bihar is in particularly need for quick solutions. Dr. Shyam Anand Jha, who has been working on India’s sanitary problem for several years, says that the region is severely lacking in trained craftsmen who are able to construct the required toilets, and that the government has not provided adequate funds to the region to help it meet its goals. In this respect, Hamilton’s affordable 3D printed toilets could really help.

Fortunately, these 3D printed toilets won’t be made from typical 3D printing materials like PLA and ABS, but from a special cement made from recycled fly ash, a coal combustion product that is available in abundance in countries that use coal-fired power plants. More importantly, work will begin sooner rather than later, with the robotic cement 3D printer expected to arrive at its destination later this month.

Interestingly, this isn’t the first case of 3D printing being used to make toilets. Back in 2015, the China International Tourism Expo exhibited a number of additively manufactured sanitary units, including an eye-catching yellow and black 3D printed toilet made by Shanghai Huajie Eco-environment Engineering. That structure, however, was made more out of luxury than necessity.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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Reader wrote at 1/18/2018 9:39:37 PM:

Note: There is not such a thing as recycled cement mix (you can recycle concrete into aggregates, but not cement into cement). Likewise, there is not such a thing as recycled fly ash. Fly ash is a by-product - and using fly ash in concrete is a well-established business. The article is interesting, and I hope this company will succeed. One skeptical aspect has to do with the 3DCP process as per se, since at present this also requires a qualified labour to run the process (and especialy to circunvent eventual problems that can occur due to the lack of robustness in the process).

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