Shapeways, The Community

3D printing the Bottom of the Pyramid

The Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) is a term used to describe the largest and at the same time poorest group of people on our planet. This group of four billion people live on less than $2 a day.

The BOP has unique challenges and has traditionally not been served by many companies & products. The BOP could benefit from well designed products that help the poorest people by making their lives easier, longer or even help them escape poverty in some way.

As Shapeways we can potentially democratize manufacturing &
production for anyone, anywhere. We can produce 3D printed goods more efficiently with
more scale and at lower cost than anyone. This means that unique, short run products can be made that potentially help the Bottom of the Pyramid. So how can we by using
Shapeways’ strengths bring the benefits of 3D printing to the poor, the
developing world? 

We don’t know. So we’re asking you for help.

We are looking for viable product idea that could benefit the BOP. During this process, using co-creation, work together with the Shapeways community to improve this idea. We will call this process of working with you to develop this product “3D printing the BOP”. We would support your with design, 3D modeling & 3D printing expertise. We would also 3D print iterations and the final product for you. We are looking to, together with you, take this idea and turn it into a product. 

The product could either be an end use product or prototype. So, it could either be, for example, a portable water carrier that is 3D printed and then sold or distributed to the third world or it could be a prototype for this product to be ultimately made by another production process.  

  • Do you know a social entrepreneur developing a product for the Bottom of the Pyramid?
  • Do you yourself want to develop a product for the BOP?
  • Or do you know someone active in a poor community with a unique design or engineering challenge?

Apply by emailing a short outline of your idea as well as a short description of yourself to joris (at) shapeways (dot) com. Or send this blog post on to the right person so that they can enter. The deadline for entries is the 7th of November. We will then sift through and evaluate the entries and select a project that we will support.

The criteria for the entries are:

  • Above all: viability
  • Elegantly designed, simple and robust items would seem to us to be more effective.
  • Concept is nothing, it depends on execution, the final product, functionality.
  • The product must ameliorate the conditions of the members of the Bottom of the Pyramid in some way.
  • The products benefit has to be easy to evaluate and communicate. 
  • It could be a niche product.
  • It does not have to be a “big” idea that changes everything it could just do something small incredibly well.  
  • A great example of what we are looking for is the Rolling Water Container.


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