Design for Living

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The revolutionary wind-propelled mine clearance device

Massoud Hassani’s Mine Kafon has a funny name. But it’s function is very serious. Looking like an oversized sea urchin or a massive 3-D model of a virus, this curious object has the potential to change the world. Well, at least in some small but meaningful way.

According to the UN, up to 110 million mines have been laid in more than 70 countries since the 1960’s. They kill between 15 000 and 20 000 people each year. Ironically soldiers are the least affected: most victims are civilians. Children, women and the elderly have no choice but to live in these conflict zones. Thousands more are maimed or seriously injured. The majority of these are residents of countries without advanced public healthcare systems. Only those living where there are active medical programmes specialised in landmine injury and rehabilitation are likely to regain any reasonable quality of life.

Perversely, mines are cheap. The UN estimates that some cost as little as $3 to make and secret in the ground. However, clearing them costs about $1 000 each. Even then, removal is not without its risks. One mine clearance specialist is killed, and two injured, for every 5 000 mines cleared.

The Mine Kafon is a wind-propelled ‘ball’ that can clear land mines without risk to people. If there was ever something to illustrate to schoolchildren why product design matters, then this is it. Made out of bamboo staves and biodegradable plastics it could make mine clearance safer and more affordable. If it goes into production, a Mine Kafon device will cost about $40 and it is capable of clearing multiple mines.

Yes, it’s a resilient little beast. The design ensures the interior core is predominantly void space. So, when one of its feet detonates a mine, the blast is dissipated; insufficient to entirely obliterate it. It can usually get rid of three or four mines before requiring repair and simply being rolled out again.

Despite its deceptively simple looks, it deploys cutting-edge, accessible technology. As Massoud explains, “Every ball has GPS integrated into it. You can see the balls on the Internet, so you can see where they went and how many mines they hit. You can also select an area and it will calculate how safe the area is. Even the blast of a mine cannot destroy the protected GPS chip.”

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The Mine Kafon is a great piece of design born of personal experience, inspired by Hassani’s childhood wind-propelled toy.

As design, it has been shown at London’s Design Museum, Milan Design Week, Dutch Design Week, Lodz Design Festival and MoMA, NYC where it has been acquired as part of the collection.

More importantly, 2016 saw the birth of the Mine Kafon Foundation as Hassani and his team move their ongoing work into further R&D that could make a real difference in affected regions. You can learn more and find out how you can support on their website. They even sell dinky brooches of the Mine Kafon with proceeds going to the foundation.

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