Landmines maybe, weren’t the best ideas we have ever had. While effective tools for maintaining an area of control during warfare, they are incredibly difficult to clean up after the war is over. The UN estimates that over 110 million active landmines are placed throughout the world, causing over 2,000 people to be maimed or killed by these leftover explosives every month. For many war-torn nations, such as Cambodia, cleaning up these long forgotten charges can be both expensive and incredibly dangerous. Surprisingly, the people of Cambodia have found an unexpected ally in 3D printing.
Training people in how to disarm the mines is also a challenge. MIT Professor J. Kim Vandiver decided that his students should partner with the Golden West Humanitarian Foundation to help provide a solution. He coordinated with Allen Tan, the Cambodia country manager to create a new form of de-mining training aids. Un-armed versions of the devices are hard to find and extremely difficult to travel with, Allen Tan explains “There’s these pieces of inert ordinance that sit in EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) classrooms. And when you go into a new country, you cannot bring inert ordnance; ship it trans-nationally, because it’s considered a weapons system still. I can’t get it on an airplane; I can’t ship it via FedEx”
These complex models can be created using traditional manufacturing but it is cost prohibitive and there are many more than one type of mine training device that would need to be created. 3D printing has once again proven to be the perfect solution, helping to inspire innovation in Vandiver and his students to create the Advanced Ordnance Training Materials kits or AOTM for short. These kits are essentially large suitcases full of 3D printed mine variants that can be used for teaching. Tam explains why the kits are so important to their training saying that “Most of our best guys who work for us here in Cambodia, they didn’t get to go to high school. It was Khmer Rouge time. You are talking about a workforce that isn’t used to learning from books, learning from powerpoints. The reason that EOD technicians or operators, the reason that they need to understand how bombs work is that they can make good decisions on how to deal with a bomb when they find one,” You can see a video of the workers and kits below.