How 3D Printing is Being Used to Provide Water Purification for Users in Developing Countries
In 2016, 29-year-old Francesca O'Hanlon founded Blue Tap, a social enterprise that uses 3D printing to provide household water purifying solutions for users in developing countries.
The 3D-printed chlorine injector is designed to automatically inject chlorine into household-level water systems, enabling high-quality drinking water in low-resource settings.
In the excellent article (attached below), the UN Environment staff talked to O’Hanlon about her work and what it takes to be an environmental entrepreneur.
Francesca O'Hanlon is the founder of Blue Tap. Photo by National Geographic Society. Source: UN Environment
What inspired you to start Blue Tap?
I was building a chlorine injector for Engineers Without Borders in Mexico. They found that their customers were not drinking the water as much as the organization wanted to, because the chlorine tablets would not disperse properly, meaning that some cups of water were highly chlorinated, and others not at all. My task was to work on designing a chlorine injector. I then set the project aside and went back to university to study for a master’s degree. After that, I worked with Doctors Without Borders, where I spent one year working in South Sudan and six months in the Central Africa Republic, providing water and sanitation to displaced populations. I was responsible for ordering a chlorine injector, but the cost was extortionate—around US$1,600. When I started studying for my Ph.D., I started exploring the idea of developing a low-cost chlorine injector using 3D printing.
What is Blue Tap’s business model?
After having tested the design in the lab in 2016, we went to Uganda to do some field trials. We wanted to implement a development project in a different way; rather than selling or donating the injector straight to the end user, we set ourselves up as a community interest company. We sell the chlorine injector for US$33 to local plumbers and they get training on chlorination and managing their business. The plumbers then sell it on to the beneficiaries along with their service for around US$53. This not only helps plumbers to improve their income, but it also means that there is always someone in a country who is managing the chlorine injectors.
Read the entire interview on the UN Environment