In 2013, Philippe Parmentier launches in Colombia and Spain a project of 3D printing of prostheses for handicapped children. Since then, the Utopia Maker solidarity fab lab has come a long way, successfully entering the commons economy and demonstrating that people on the margins of society are the ones who most want to make the lines move.
"Emancipate individuals through free access to knowledge. It is to embody the libertarian spirit of the pioneers of the Internet that Philippe Parmentier launches in 2013 "Materialisation 3D Madrid". A project conducted jointly in Madrid in Spain and... in Colombia, where a small town on the outskirts of Bogotá bears the same name as the Spanish capital. Why these two countries? "Because I like to move around," answers the self-taught, kicking in the sidelines. "We introduced children to 3D printing, inventing models in one city and making them remotely in the other."
The Colombian class will enable him to put his ideals into practice. One of the students had an arm amputated due to an accident at work and his classmates decided to make a prosthesis for him themselves. They download plans of an open source model from the Internet and print it out in 3D. This small feat makes the headlines in the Colombian media. As a result, requests from families of disabled children began to pour in. And with good reason: in Colombia, the war with FARC has transformed certain areas of the country into minefields that claim thousands of victims and whose survivors find themselves handicapped.
"In the first two years, engineers, doctors and student volunteers produced about 50 prostheses adapted to children," says Philippe Parmentier. A large number, but not enough to meet the needs. So, in 2016, he is making a radical change: young disabled people and their families will start making the prostheses themselves. This is the birth certificate of Utopia Maker. Since then, one child has printed himself a prosthesis to play the guitar, another to ride a bicycle, while a young deaf engineer, Mauricio Carrillo, has developed a system for recycling plastic waste which he has installed directly on a 3D printer. With the self-manufacturing of 3D printers, recycled plastic and open source models, the cost of producing a prosthesis has become very marginal, opening up infinite possibilities for customization and innovation.
In recent months, Utopia Maker has spread to France (a branch in Marseilles has just opened its doors), Vietnam and the Central African Republic, putting into practice the ecological utopia of "cosmo-local", a thesis developed by Michel Bauwens, the Belgian peer-to-peer theorist, who posits that "everything that is light is global (sharing technical and scientific knowledge), and everything that is heavy is local (production in micro-fabrics)". But in the spirit of Philippe Parmentier, Utopia Maker goes far beyond the development of fab labs and the production of prostheses in open source. This project is a lever to contribute to a society of individuals emancipated from the rigid framework of States, institutions and the market. A society orchestrated by blockchain technology and knowledge sharing, which would make sure to leave no one by the wayside: "Innovation can only come from those on the margins of society, because they are the most motivated to make things happen. Those on the margins guarantee a permanent renewal of society, which is what I call reverse inclusion," sums up Philippe Parmentier. He adds that, in his view, education, health and the preservation of the environment cannot be subject to an economic logic, be it "reasoned" or "sustainable". Sensitive to the philosophy of the commons, he advocates the removal of certain resources and contributions from the sphere of influence of the market and States and entrusting them to collectives of self-managed individuals, whose economy would be deployed on the periphery."