YANGON (Myanmar): Whizzing across a blue-lit platform which has a whirr plus a squeak, liquid plastic emanating from the chrome tip, the 3D printer seems far from the muddy, crop-filled fields that fringe Yangon.
But within an industrial park south of Myanmar’s commercial hub, the advanced technology is now being exercised to design bespoke parts which have been changing the lives of impoverished farmers.
Myanmar’s manufacturing sector was gutted under 50 years of isolationist military rule, forcing farmers to cobble together their own personal tools or use ill-adapted imports.
Poor equipment has included with the hardships of growing crops within the disaster-prone country, where farmers are the cause of up to 50 % in the economy’s output despite being one of the poorest producers in Asia.
But in a single corner of Yangon, change is afoot.
Over at social enterprise Proximity Designs, cutting-edge 3D printer technology is being utilized to design specially adapted tools, in consultation while using farmers who use them.
“We should create something which farmers find have fun with,” product designer Taiei Harimoto told AFP in their workshop, where robotic arms line the walls near benches suffering from tools and mechanical parts.
The printer, a smallish, black, hollow cube using a needle inside connected to a computer, has been make use of helping design parts for just a sprinkler system additionally, the internal mechanics to get a solar pump.
Creating prototypes in plastic means they can perfect designs for complex pieces during the lab, getting rid of a lengthy back-and-forth that can cost thousands of dollars.
Once the form has been perfected, it is then sent on to factories abroad the location where the final part is mass produced.
“Before it could have taken weeks and they often months” to make the prototypes every product, said co-founder Debbie Aung Din.
Out during the fields, farmers appear already seeing their profits grow.
On his tiny half-acre plot some 70 miles (100km) from Yangon, betel leaf farmer Kyaw Win said his life has been changed through the 3D printer-designed sprinkling system he installed over eight weeks ago.
“Using products like this could certainly cut in half the amount of time we need to spend working daily,” the 60-year-old told AFP while he stroked the plants’ wide leaves, which some people in Myanmar chew like a stimulant.
Instead of handing over labourers to water the plants using buckets – back-breaking work that tend to meant the leaves became damp and diseased – now bigger a targeted system which he can operate himself.
“All of us reduced our costs by expenditures as compared to what we was required to spend before,” he explained.