Protoprint is a Pune based “social enterprise”, founded by an alumnus of MIT (USA), which has figured out how to take waste plastic from the waste that is picked by the waste pickers in Pune, and convert that into the raw material that is needed by 3D printers, and which can then be used to create any product using the 3D printer.
Protoprint was founded in early 2013 by Sidhant Pai, an environmental engineering student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the summer of 2012, Pai had been researching low-cost recycling technology around the same time his father began dabbling in 3D printing as a hobby.
“[I realized] that 3D printer filament” — the plastic, coil-like material used to mold 3D-printed creations — “was basic in its chemical composition. So, we started looking into whether it was possible to recycle the filament from waste plastic,” he says.
It was. After a brief research period, Pai partnered with Pune, India-based cooperative SWaCH, which employs “pickers” to sort through the city’s waste bins for plastic bottles. They developed a system: After the pickers collect the bottles, workers wash and run them through a FlakerBot shredding machine, and then melt the plastic and spool it into reels of filament.
“This really bridges the gap between cutting-edge technology and grassroots recycling,” Pai says.
The group is in its final stages of its pilot launch, and plans to begin commercial production by the end of the summer.
For more information about Protoprint and what they do, see their website, and their (FAQ)ref2.
In addition to this, they also provide 3D printing consulting and services for educational institutions and companies. Here are details:
We work collaboratively with companies and institutions interested in setting up 3D Printing Services for their students or employees. We set up Print Labs on and off campus, providing access to large format 3D printing facilities at affordable rates. In addition to high quality 3D printers, we offer a fully developed and customizable web portal and a thorough knowledge of the industry. Contact us to see how we might assist your institution.
For educational institutions:
A correctly implemented prototyping hub can provide an incredible value to students and young designers. We consult with educational institutions and schools and provide affordable case by case implementation plans taking into consideration the end use objectives of the institute. We also offer an easy to use web portal that can be customized to individual institutions, providing their students an added measure of accessibility. Contact us to learn more.
and for companies:
High Quality 3D Printers can provide professional designers with an efficient method to prototype and iterate on their designs. We provide companies with a detailed understanding of different 3D printing methods and empower them with targeted information and structure. We also offer fully developed web portal solutions to their employees, making prototyping easier and more intuitive. Contact us for more information.
EyeNetra is a very small, cheap device (that costs less than Rs. 100) that can be clipped on to a regular smartphone and which can be used to detect vision problems including detecting their lens prescription, astigmatism, and even cataract. Since it is so cheap, and portable, it can be used in villages all over the world. In India alone, about 6% of the people wear glasses, but it is estimated that about 40% of them should be wearing them. That’s 200 million people in India who don’t have eye glasses that are needed.
Why is this a big deal? Blurry vision means that a child cannot learn. Blurry vision means that there are certain jobs that a day labourer cannot do. So EyeNetra can have tremendous social impact.
In EyeNetra, the software on the smartphone displays a number of dots on the screen. The clip on device has a number of tiny lenses which are placed in such a way that if you have normal vision, the light rays from all the dots will actually convert on the retina of your eye and you’ll see a single dot. If your eye has a problem, then you’ll see multiple dots. Now the UI of the software asks the user to adjust things until the dots converge and the user sees only one dot. Based on what adjustments are needed, the software will be able to figure out what are the defects in the user’s eye (in terms of spherical and cylindrical corrections)
EyeNetra needs high resolution displays, but in recent years the resolutions of phones have really gone up, from 160DPI for samsung to 300+ for the iPhone 4G. User demand is driving industry to improve the resolutions of their phone. So, every time you use your phone to see video clips and take photographs, you are forcing the industry to increase their resolutions, and will indirectly end up helping people around the world get better vision through EyeNetra.
Netra prototypes are now in dozen+ countries.
The next device in this series is EyeMotia – for detecting cataracts. It is a similar clip-on device for a smartphone which uses similar techniques to determine whether you have cataract. The basic idea is similar – the software draws various patterns on the screen which pass through a specific area of the lens in your eye before reaching the retina to form a clear green dot. If you have normal vision, you will see a simple green dot going around in circles. If you have astigmatism, you will see the green dot going around in an oval path. If you have cataract, the green dot will disappear at certain times as it goes round. This is because at a certain location, when it has to pass through a cataract affected portion of your lens, the rays will get scattered and will not form a nice green dot on the retina.
The eye is the only part of your body where you can see blood vessels directly without having to cut you up. Similarly, if you know what to look for, you can look into the aqueous humour (the colorless liquid in the eye), you can make deductions about the blood sugar levels in your body. So, the eye is an amazing device, and you can use clever visual computing to do various interesting deductions about your body using simple devices and smartphones.
EyeNetra is setting up a team in India which will work with hospitals, government organizations, NGOs and other groups to take the EyeNetra device to rural India. They tried just giving the devices away to NGOs, but that did not work well – so the current thinking is that it needs to be run like a business using a focused team for success. So, EyeNetra is looking for people who will join the team. A COO, maybe a CTO, BizDev are needed. Anyone interested should contact Ramesh.
Challenge to People – the smart phone is an amazing device. There is lots and lots you could do with it. Think of various ways in which you can use it for purposes that it was not originally intended for. There is the camera, the display, accelerometer, GPS, internet, bluetooth, RF. You can do magic.
Think of this example of thinking out of the box: create a video game in which people with normal vision will shoot one way, and people with abnormal vision (astimatism, color-blindness) will shoot a different way. So you get a medical test done while playing a video game.
In the next few decades, the world will move from text and audio based communications to more and more visual information. Vision crosses language barriers, socio-economic barriers, and will help the next billion consumers. Hence, processing visual information intelligently becomes a very important capability.
In 6 years, the world went from zero cameras in mobile phones, to a billion cameras in mobile phones. And today, a billion mobile phones with cameras get sold every year. There is a major visual revolution underway, but most people haven’t realized it yet.
Hence, the Camera Culture group spends their time exploring various ideas related to visual computing. They spend 60% of their time on hardware and 40% on software. With this, they build crazy cameras – like the camera that can look around corners.
Looking around corners: How is this done? Use the flash from a camera. The light hits a wall/door/obstacle and bounces off in various directions. Some of the bounced photons actually go around the corner, hit various objects that are not directly visible, and then an even smaller fraction of them bounce back all the way to the camera. If you’re clever about analyzing the photons, you can actually figure out where each photon has come from and hence reconstruct features of the objects around the camera. For this you need to do an extremely fast camera – which does one trillion frames per second.
If you do the work that you’re supposed to be doing, and then spend a little more time doing ‘something extra’, that something extra has a high chance of being noticed. So everybody – do your job well, but make sure to do something extra
In a way, it is good to work in an emerging country like India. Here, you are not totally constrained by draconian governmental regulations that limit your creativity and possibilities. Of course, we also have regulations, but they’re not as strong, and not as strongly enforced. Hence, you can achieve much more here, and more quickly than what would be possible in the US. In fact, you can help people more because the Government is staying out of the way.
MIT has a $100k Entrepreneurship & Ideas competition every year. This has 3 stages. A 1-minute elevator pitch contest in October, with $1000 instant prizes, followed by a Executive Summary competition in November, with $1000 instant prizes, followed by a full-fledged Business Plan competition in Jan/Feb which has various track prizes, and a grand prize of $100k. Tip: get on their mailing list and you can get an idea of everything that’s going on. So that is something worth doing.
If Pune would like to start such competitions Ramesh is willing to put in some money from his Entrepreneurship class (Imaging Ventures) to fund the competition.
There are dozens and dozens of classes in MIT for converting innovation to commercial success. This includes basic+applied research all the way to classes targeting people in established companies. What you can do, sitting in Pune, is join the mailing lists of these classes, and see the course material on the web. For free.
Thinking about difference between Pune and Boston (MIT) – the same people who don’t do much here go to Boston and do amazing things. What is the difference? Network. Everybody has to go out of their way to help other people in the network – and this has a huge multiplier effect.
Mark your calendars. This is an event you cannot miss.
Ramesh Raskar, Associate Professor at MIT Media Lab (that’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology, not Pune’s MIT), considered one of the top young innovators in the world, is in town, and we’re taking this opportunity to have him give a talk. The talk is at 5:45pm on Wednesday, 6th July, at the Venture Center, in NCL, Pashan. He will talk about various topics including:
Netra, the mobile phone based eye exam for developing countries,
His other work in the field of computational vision and imaging,
His initiatives in India and Pune,
Help/Collaborations he is looking for from people organizations in India
MIT Media Labs, commercializing inventions, the startup ecosystem in Boston.
This will be followed by time for discussions and networking
About Ramesh Raskar
Ramesh Raskar is the head of MIT Media Lab’s Camera Culture research group. His research interests span the fields of computational photography, inverse problems in imaging, and human-computer interaction. Recent inventions include transient imaging to look around a corner, a next-generation CAT-scan machine, imperceptible markers for motion capture (Prakash), long-distance barcodes (Bokode), touch + hover 3D interaction displays (BiDi screen), low-cost eye care devices (NETRA) and new theoretical models to augment light fields (ALF) to represent wave phenomena.
Awards and Honours for Ramesh Raskar:
Top young innovator under 35, from MIT Technology Review in 2004
Top 20 Indian technology innovators, from Global Indus Technovator Awards, MIT, 2003
Sloan Research Fellowship, 2009
DARPA Young Faculty award, 2010
40 US patents
4 Mitsubishi Electric Invention awards
Fees and Registration
This event is free and open for anybody to attend. No registration required
What’s common to Stevie Wonder, Surdas, Helen Keller and Siddhant Chothe, Nitin Dhaware, Sandhya Murkute, Sanghapal Bhowate and Vikas Waghmare? All of them are achievers whose visual impairment did not spell an end to their world. The latter five people form the Team TechVision, ‘a software writing firm’ at the Niwant Andh Mukta Vikasalaya in Pune.
Niwant is doing work in helping not just the visually impaired but society too in understanding their need for empathy and dignity. It is an organization that helps visually challenged students in pursuing higher education after the age of 18. Many of them are branded by their family and society as non-productive and useless. But in last fourteen years ‘Niwant’ has tried to change the picture by putting them back in the social fold. Many are now employed, have families and lead a mainstream life through Niwant efforts. More, they are now contributing back, through the alumni club, ‘So Can Eye’.
TechVision has just completed a paid project from the Silicon Valley, at BoardWalk Tech, a U.S. based company (whose founder, Sarang Kulkarni, recently moved to Pune) and they are raring for more. Sourabh Nolkha, Chief Strategic & Development Officer of Niwant Andh Mukta Vikasalaya waxes eloquent about how it all started.
“14 years back Niwant Andh Mukta Vikasalaya was established to help the visually challenged youth of India get a chance at holistic development in this fast growing new age world. When they did not have any education material, Niwant offered them the opportunity to gain knowledge initially through hand written Braille books and cassette recording for audio. This increased their zeal to study further which made Niwant look further into options of providing more knowledge at a faster rate. Niwant received a Braille Embosser, which opened a new eye for the Visually Challenged as they were able to compete with the sighted world.
The journey of making Visually Challenged students technologically savvy started with Niwant providing them with MP3 players, on which they could record the lessons. With this, Niwant understood the importance of the technology and computers. The students were also fascinated with the potentials it hold for them and the enhancement it could do to their learning process. But some of the students ventured even a step further and opted for Post Graduate Diploma in Computer Application (PGDCA). Then some more followed their footsteps and started early with Bachelor’s in Computer Applications.
Niwant had students capable of making a career in IT but there was a lack of trust by the main-stream IT industry. That is when Niwant, with the help of some friends and volunteers, decided to provide the prospective Techies, a launch-pad and started Tech Vision. We had our first break with BoardwalkTech Inc.”
So how do they learn software programming?
Sourabh says the team comprise of five visually impaired, all of whom have studied computers at their Bachelor degree level or have done special certification program in computer science from renowned Pune University. The curriculum consisted of computer basics, Operating Systems (Linux, Windows), MS Office, Tally and many program languages C, C++, Java, VB, ASP, SQL, HTML, Dot (.) Net.
“In addition to their regular classes at the college, we provided them with additional coaching classes at Niwant with the help of some volunteers and also sent them to specialized computer coaching institutions.”
Sourabh says initially, there was a resistance to the whole idea of visually challenged learning computers. Some of their students had to fight hard to get admission into the computer courses. But finally they could convince the colleges to accept them at par with other sighted students and the students proved their mettle quite frequently, raising their stock value and dissolving prejudices. For the subsequent batches, the going has been smoother.
But it has not been enough just to get the admissions. The course curriculum is not very accommodative of the visually challenged and requires drawings / diagrams, thus limiting the scores of the visually challenged. There was also trouble regarding finding suitable scribes. But in due time, the mindset has undergone a sea change resulting in increased co-operation. The teachers have now started accepting the assignments in electronic form and norms for scribes have also been re-defined.
So Niwant was able to achieve the ultimate? No, says Sourabh, there were yet more challenges waiting for them.
“The licensed version of the audio-aid software like Job Access With Speech (JAWS) was out of reach for most of the visually challenged due to its cost. In addition to this, some of the applications are not supported in totality or partially by the audio-aid software. This was not conducive for their studies. After they had completed their studies, the problem was to find suitable job opportunities which were hard to come by. That is when Tech Vision came as their saviour.”
So what are the software tools they use (specifically for the blind)? Sourabh provides a list.
Job Access with Speech (JAWS) – audio-aid software for windows operating system
Talks and Mobile Speak – audio-aid software for mobile
Abbey – scanning software for better OCR scanning
Win Braille – converts normal English script into Braille script
JAWS Sangeetha – converts normal English script into audio
Shri Patrika from Modular Infotech – converts regional languages into Braille script
The work have they done in one year is impressive too. Other than Boardwalk where they worked on Java Servlets for the BCP Demo Version and Boardwalk Collaboration Platform demonstration version where they still work on Visual Basic for Application for the API development project, they have done an HSBC Sample Accessibility Testing where they conducted a sample web accessibility test case on HSBC Private Bank home page.
The profile of the current staff of Tech Vision is also quite comparable to industry standards. While Siddhant Chothe has completed MCM and has 2 years of work- experience, Nitin Dhaware has completed PGDCA and has 2 years of work exposure. The others, Sandhya Murkute, Vikas Waghmare, and Sanghapal Bhowate are all in their 3rd year B.C.A and have 1 year of part-time work-experience. They also have a visually challenged volunteer Shrirang Shahastrabuddhi, from Infosys Technologies.
The currently capabilities include competence in Visual basic, Java, Oracle, C++, PHP, MySQL, Web Design, Accessibility testing of User Interface, Web Accessibility testing and solutions. (USA 508, WCAG2 guide lines). Niwant is looking for clientele, and any company interested in product development based on VBA, Java, MySQL, PHP etc. and getting their website tested for accessibility under Section 508 of US Rehabilitation Act, 1998 and WCAG2 guidelines, GIGW (Guidelines for Indian Government Websites, 2011) are welcome to tap their talent.