PrintLab, a global distributor of 3D printed products for education, has teamed up with Free_D, a social enterprise supporting disadvantaged women in India with access to computer aided design (CAD) and fabrication skills. Working together they have delivered a successful range of courses to organizations in the country, including a number of shelters for women who are at risk or survivors of human trafficking.

A 3D design oriented curriculum 

A 3D printing curriculum was outlined for the initiative by UK based PrintLab, using its archive of classroom resources, and access to software such as Autodesk 123D, Tinkercad and Meshmixer. The distributor also provided MakerBot 3D printers used for the projects.

One of the workshops engaged in by the women was the Makerversity DIY “Make your own Cookie Cutter” project. In this class, the students are taught the processes necessary to CAD model a custom cookie shape and prepare the model for 3D printing.

A CAD modeled and 3D printer smiley face cookie cutter. Photo via PrintLab

A CAD modeled and 3D printer smiley face cookie cutter. Photo via PrintLab

In most cases, women who completed the class had never used a computer before. Katherine Prescott, CEO of Free_D explains, “The women we worked with at Kshamatawere initially fearful of engaging with computers: mostly they were computer illiterate and very scared of breaking the hardware or getting things wrong.”

She continues,

By the end of the first afternoon, they were laughing and comfortable creating and sharing their own designs. It was fantastic to watch the women form groups to help each other learn, create and experiment with different tools and techniques in the CAD software.

Contributing to a positive working infrastructure for women

Sia Mahdavi, founder of Free_D,  gives more insight into the feedback received from the women on the course, “They asked really pertinent questions that I would have been impressed with if they had come from someone with a formal education and some experience with design for 3D printing.”

CAD training in a PrintLab/Free_D course. Photo via PrintLab

CAD training in a PrintLab/Free_D course. Photo via PrintLab

The Free_D founder continues,

…we were having a conversation about build angles and support structures (which is already quite difficult to understand) and one of the girls asked about support structures within hollow objects. I didn’t think for a second I would be having a conversation at that level, even after 2 months of training. This was after just 3 days, what could they do in 6 months?

Such positive remarks are incredibly encouraging for Free_D’s forthcoming project designed to build on the skills and knowledge introduced in the courses from PrintLab.

Set to take pilot orders at the beginning of 2018, Free_D and its partners at the Kshamata organization, are launching a program to create a group of artisanal jewelry makers. Trained in CAD, 3D printing and the lost-wax method of metal casting, as used to make 2017’s Oscar trophies, the program will be initially set up with 10 women, in the hope that the group will continue to grow and create a strong career potential for others in the area.

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Featured image: A 3D printing demonstration by PrintLab/Free_3D in India. Photo via PrintLab

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