September 26 is World Contraception Day
SEX-ED + makes various contraceptive methods available for free for 3D printing!
3D printing is an incredible technology that allows the creation and distribution of low-cost educational materials. Think of the 3D clitoris, made available in 2016, which has revolutionized the way we talk about sexuality in our activities. Since its inception, SEX-ED + project has aimed to use 3D technologies to render more material available. But while the intention is to make the material free of charge, the process itself is quite costly. 3D scanning, working on the digital files and project management are specific jobs that can’t be improvised and need to be paid for. Which explains why it takes time. In this case, it took 6 years.
From fab-lab to general public
The idea of making different contraceptive methods available for 3D printing came about during a chat with a facilitator at the Carrefour numérique, at the Cité des sciences in Paris. Aware of sex educators reality and needs, (she collaborated with Odile Fillod to create the first version of the 3D clitoris), she felt that the next printable objects should be contraceptive methods. Indeed, sexuality educators have a hard time getting hold of demos of the different methods. And explaining how an IUD or contraceptive implant functions without a visual reference for size and shape is complicated.
Steps to realization
- Ideation during a meeting at Carrefour numérique, Cité des sciences de Paris (2018)
- Establishment of SEX-ED + Project and financial consolidation until budget surpluses are freed up, enabling this type of side project to be carried out (2018- present).
- Request for contraceptive material from Clinique des femmes de l’Outaouais (2022)
- 3D scanning of various contraceptive methods at 3D Preciscan in Granby and work on the numeric files (2022)
- Upload of files, integration on a sharing platform and communications around the project (newsletter, website and social networks) (2023)
The cost of a free project
Why make these steps visible? To help everyone realize the human and financial costs associated with a project, even if it’s intended to be free. There is the time and transportation, the establishment and maintenance of collaborative networks, the collection of funds to pay the various people who worked on the project, and its coordination.
Making various contraceptive methods available for 3D printing is a small project whose budget amounts to around $5,000. It could have been carried out in less than a month if it had been entrusted to a salaried person in an institution with the technical, human and financial resources necessary to see it through.
Because that wasn’t the case, this little project ended up being carried out for 6 years by a volunteer with a background in social sciences, who knows little about digital technologies and finances it by selling genital models made in her basement.
I am not looking for pats in the back here, but rather asking us all to look at our institutions and collectively ask the questions: why don’t our universities and research centres take responsibility for creating the materials we need to work in sexual health? Why don’t they entrust these projects to salaried staff with the skills to do so? Why don’t our institutions understand the needs of those who are practising sexuality education everyday? How can we break down the barriers between research and practice, and give ourselves the means to create the tools our professional community need? Why is the majority of sexuality education material produced by volunteers/passionate people/enthusiasts who are fed up with the lack of progress?
We need to make our needs known to our institutions, our training bodies and our professional associations. There are many pending projects, many unmet needs, and things would go so much faster if we gave ourselves the means to do it properly, under the right conditions. Innovation in our practice environments cannot rest solely on the shoulders of volunteers. We need to give ourselves the means to achieve our ambitions, and develop hubs for knowledge transfer and pedagogical support creation in line with the needs of our practice environments.
How can I obtain 3D files and print the contraceptive methods?
Please note: it is not possible to print a contraceptive method in 3D. What we offer are reproductions that can be used as teaching aids during sexual and reproductive health outreach activities.
1) Download the files you’re interested in
- Contraceptive pill – 21
- Contraceptive pill – 28
- Copper IUD
- Hormonal IUD
- Contraceptive ring
- Contraceptive implant
- Long-term hormonal contraceptive injection
As external and internal condoms are easier to find in pharmacies, they have not been scanned.
2) Download software to read the file and “slice” it before printing.
3) Save the sliced file in gcode extension on a USB key or SD card compatible with the 3D printer you’re going to use.
4) Find a 3D printer and print.
It’s getting easier and easier to get access to a 3D printer. They’re often available in educational institutions, libraries, fab-labs, cafés…Do a search around your home. Once you’ve found the machine, the people who work with it will be able to help you with the printing parameters. Spend the next hour marvelling at digital technology.
5) Contribute to accessible and free knowledge
- by constantly learning new things
- by using and distributing copyleft content
- by crediting the makers who do the work and make it available
- by developing new contents
- by lobbying your institutions to create tools that meet our needs.