In 2010, the world was captivated by the story of 33 Chilean miners trapped for 69 days. Their only link with the world above ground was a 4.5-inch hole. An opening just large enough for the 3M mobile projector.View Video
The trapped miners called themselves “Los 33” (“The 33”). They survived for 69 days before the rescue.
It makes sense that Alexis Ibarra, a well-known technology writer and reporter for El Mercurio, would help the miners communicate with the world above.
A few months earlier, he had reported on the unveiling of 3M’s mobile projectors in Chile. He called 3M to see if we could help.
“Human creativity has no limits.”
- Alexis Ibarra
Reporter, El Mercurio
Trapped 2,257 m Below
Everything that went down and came up during the 69-day ordeal had to fit in a shaft with just a 12cm diameter opening (about 4.7 inches).
Food, water, and supplies had to fit in canisters called palomas (“doves”) only about as wide as a smartphone is tall.
To get the projector so small, it took several inventions, including one called the reflective film polarizer. Created by 3M scientist Andy Ouderkirk and his team, the polarizer makes the projector 50% more efficient. Now the battery and other components can be smaller—and so can the whole projector.
Rescuers used the 3M projectors to send vital health care and survival guides, messages from loved ones, and even a soccer game to help the miners pass the time (although the Chilean team lost).
“You have in mind a way an innovation can help people. But you can never anticipate where an innovation could go from there.”
- Dr. Andrew Ouderkirk