This site shows my humanitarian and social design portfolio. I do process design, so optimisation of social and humanitarian processes, through system design and product design. I strive for Efficiency of humanitarian actors, through a needs based approach. I research, teach and talk about that.
humanitarian, process design, product design, social design, Frankfurt, international, German design, humanitarian Innovation, Germany, Human Centered design, community centered design, Thomas Jäger, design portfolio,
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Limiting logistical efforts, through On-deman production and local adaptation

One main challenge in humanitarian efforts is logistics.  This gets obvious when one looks at the definition of Humanitarian Innovation:

Delivering the right product, at the right time, in the right place for adequate costs.


The onset of a disaster and the need for humanitarian assistance are often unpredictable. Furthermore, the extent of the disaster and duration of the crisis can be difficult to estimate.  This leaves humanitarians with the challenge to provide the needed (standardised for 300.000 p.) items within 48 hours on-site, keeping storage costs little.

This is just possible, through preparedness and huge timely and financial investments. If the crisis exceeds the expected time, new and possibly continuous deliveries, have to be sent from logistic centers to the staff on-site. This challenge concerns especially the logistics cluster, but also actors of a variety of clusters.

This project shows a new approach to keep these efforts little, by a  process concept using benefits of new technology and the example of crutches.


Crutches stands for additive on-demand manufacturing in conflict areas.
Particularly in conflicts, there are large crisis areas where, on the one hand, there is a great need and, on the other hand, a great shortage of goods.
There are huge logistical efforts needed to fulfil these needs.
One good that is needed everywhere in disaster and conflict areas is forearm
supports/crutches that keep injured people mobile. By means of a one-time logistical effort to bring manufacturing machines in the conflict area, “on-demand
production” can be set up on site. In the example of “crutches”, the fasteners join parts of broom handles with a diameter of 28mm, transforming them into a crutch geometry. Through complementary sealing rings and the laws of leverage, support elements are held in position as soon as they are loaded.

The benefit of
additive manufacturing

A new approach, that focuses on flexibility and efficiency instead of just preparedness.

Additive manufacturing is what is commonly called 3D printing. This technology brings different new opportunities in terms of production and value chains. Firstly, things can be created with little machinery, allowing decentralized production. Secondly, this process, deepening on the type of 3D printing, just takes the effectively needed amount of material. Thirdly, it allows us to quickly prototype, test and improve. These three aspects are the pillars of the concept embodied by crutches.

We don't need to produce and deliver everything.

A decentralized On-demand production… 

Keeping the benefits of additive manufacturing and the hurdles for efficient humanitarian logistics in mind, crutches creates a new concept of providing aid goods.

In Crutches the focuses on the deliveries from outside the context are replaced by production on-site using a one-time logistical effort to bring manufacturing machines in the conflict or catastrophe prone area. Different connectors can be produced, adapted to the needs of the users, improved, and finally assembled with semi-finished, standardised parts.

This concept can be adapted to a vast variety of needed items.

 In case of crisis, the production can be continued. If the needs for items during the crisis shift, the production can be adjusted. Also, simpler ways exist to produce recycled filament on-site, which further limits the logistical efforts needed.

A combination of
the new and
already existing

A connector for semi finished parts… 

There is a vast diversity of semi-finished parts out there. Some of these are standardised and have therefore the same specifications everywhere.

Others are at least globally similar to each other. Crutches uses that. It is a connector part, that holds different semi-finished parts strongly together. Furthermore, it uses some to complement its own function. 

This then can create complete products, that are cost-efficient, fit the local infrastructure, and are repairable, like the crutches in this example.

crutches that are no „crutches“…

In the case of crutches, this concept finds its manifestation as crutches.

Instead of delivering pre-produced crutches, 3D printers, filament, and potentially some semi-finished parts, if locally not available, get delivered on-site. These different components become crutches when needed. Local workshop supervisors print the needed connectors and cut some broomsticks with the users, who then can simply assemble the parts.

Broomsticks and sealing rings are cheap parts, that have standardised diameters. They allow efficient usage and are likely available. The broomsticks are the main structure of the crutches, which hold together through the manufactured connectors. The sealing rings hold the connectors in place.

This is everything. Just a few parts, that have initially nothing to do with crutches become exactly that.

This creates an open design, that provokes local adaptation.

Engaging the users in finishing the product, lowers the investments and secures a fit to their needs.

Crutches have different types, shoulder crutches need to have a cushion layer, where the armpit rests. Its absence can circumcise the blood circulation and create medical issues. It also makes the usage painful after sometime

Crutches is effective if potential future production time is realistically considered. The connectors print, and printing cushions require time. Delivering these for this item so particular parts from the outside, is what crutches wants to overcome.

Therefore it uses another strategy with multidimensional impact.

The blank round sticks provoke the users to create cushions with available items.  It makes production quicker, cheaper and a better fit to the locally available resources.

Using physical forces
instead of screws, or glue allows quick repair.

A lever mechanism holds the horizontal sticks in the right angle to the vertical one.

When designing something with the aim of efficiency, it is important to first be aware of existing capacities, to potentially integrate them, instead of adding more components. Designing crutches, it was quickly clear that there will be verticals and horizontals that needed to be connected. Looking at the usage I identified the pressure that a person puts on the horizontals while using can be used as a lever mechanism. Through the angle, the vertical forces get translated to horizontal and press the parts together. This enables quick and simple usage.

Without loosening a screw, or doing something similar the crutches can be disassembled and the height adjusted.

People deserve aesthetic solutions

Aesthetics can show us the function of a product on the first sight, but also make the usage desirable.

Are aesthetic products necessary in a crisis? 

Obviously. A functional aesthetic informs the user as to what it is and how to use it. It allows for better understanding. Crutches connectors clamp different parts together and look like clamps. Users can understand its purpose by its looks. It has arches in the center too which improve stability.

The appreciation for aesthetic products reveals human’s need for beauty, it also shows that people living in beautiful surroundings can cope with stress in a better way. As there is no increase in investment, there is no harm in providing aesthetic products to people.

Being aware of

The most thought threw design can come across the unexpected…

The basis of limiting logistical efforts is the localisation of production and build-up on locally existing resources.

This already allows an implementation in different global settings. Nevertheless even with this approach, the unexpected can happen e.g. the imagined broom sticks, unavailable. Crutches kept that in mind. The diameter of the holes in the connectors can be minimized by inserting vertical sealing rings. Like that thinner broom or simply found sticks can be used as well.

This is just the start, the continuation is on-site

The first iteration of connectors for a purpose can be done in advance.

With the production in place, the first connectors can be printed. To create a timely efficient start of production, predesigned connectors should be printed, implemented, evaluated, and improved if needed.

A huge diversity of open-source solutions available can be a source for the needed data to produce. Are external designers involved, can they design these to an applicable degree, which allows the kickoff of the production.

Improvements, that are made by local users and partners, can be uploaded to an open-source databank and therefore provided to others.

"Openess in the design of a services or Product and the provocation of local adaptation enable user acceptance."

Dipl. Des. Thomas Jäger