From some items retrieved from a dump in Lome, the capital of Togo, it was possible to build something considered revolutionary for the developed countries. From the hands of a geographer 34 years came the first 3D printer African made with recycled objects.
"This machine can print a lot of things like kitchen utensils, plastic toys, tools for craftsmen and prostheses for hospitals. It is the first printer African obtained from recycling and simultaneously a solution in the fight against pollution" – said in an exclusive interview Afate Gnikou.
The stereotype about lack of technology on the continent goes against the development and research of African to advance in making use of alternatives and opportunities available, as Afate, that rescues pieces of junk released by the countries of the "First World" on the west coast of Africa.
Dump in Lome, Togo - "The number of printers that I can do with the waste is unlimited. There is a lot of waste computers in Lomé arriving daily ... The machines that do not work are laid deposits, and others are discarded after use. Therefore, it is at the dump mail that I get my parts" – said.
The beginning of the project
The Togolese began manufacturing the printer in early 2013. He says his inspiration came from another printer model (the Prusa Mendel) in an assembly workshop in Lomé, the largest city of the country with 6 million people which borders Benin, Ghana and Burkina Faso.
"We learn to assemble the Prusa Mendel (popular model in the United States and Europe) from a kit imported from the West by the association called 'African Architecture'. This association organizes every year, a large gathering of Architecture and Technologies in Togo called "ARCHICAMP ". In the 2012 edition, I decided I wanted to produce a – recalled".
Before his desire and lack of raw material for a Prusa Mendel, Afate wondered: "Why not make a 3D printer with other materials?" So he collected some items and complemented its creation.
At the end of the mechanical part of the project, Woelab (technology incubator) has launched a fundraising campaign online. Funding (with donations from around the world) has enabled the completion of the machine: the W.afate .
Dump in Lome, Togo - "The resources (about 4000 euros) were used to buy electronic cards that constitute the brain of the machine and to bring France a 3D specialist who taught us many things. After his departure, I continued to develop the machine and finally finished!"
3D printing is not new to the big industry. It is a form of technology where a three dimensional model is created by successive layers. Technology (which mimics the appearance and functionality of prototypes) offers the possibility to print portions of some materials with different physical and mechanical properties.
The first 3D printer work was created in 1984 by the American Chuck Hull of 3D Systems Corp. He invented the solid imaging process known as stereolithography (3D printing), the first rapid prototyping technology.
Since the beginning of this century, there has been a significant growth in sales of these machines and a drop in its price. According to the report this year of Wohlers Associates, the market for 3D printers and services grew 28.6 % in 2012. The average annual growth of the industry over the last 25 years is 25.4 %
Afate with his 3D print - Personal Archive "During the development of my printer, I decided to frame a central unit to form creation. So I used rails, belts, motors in old printers and scanners unusable. The production took time because I was working with simple tools (saw, hammer, drill) – detailed the creator, noting that waste IT are available in several places and easy access."
In February this year, U.S. President Barack Obama said that 3D printing is the source of a new industrial revolution and urged the U.S. Congress to promote the creation of " centers of prints " all over the country". The workers are mastering the technique of 3D printing, which has the power to revolutionize the way we produce almost everything " – Obama said in a speech .
Away from the United States, Afate believes that Africans identify these opportunities, build a strategy and finally materialize the desire to develop the product. The W.afate is different from other printers at various points because it is made primarily from waste of other printers, is the first African unity obtained by recycling and a way to combat pollution. The creator is keen to stress that it is not patented. The manufacturing drawings are available on the Internet in order to promote improvements in the daily lives of Africans.
Afate with his 3D print - Personal Archive The Togolese version was designed to meet African concerns. In this sense, she embraces the project called "Africa 3D.print Internet Cafes" in order to equip cafes 3D printer, giving customers the opportunity to download and print objects in real mode.
"We believe in equipping all cyber cafes in Togo with the printer. I attended fora here to educate people about the wonders and usefulness of this machine. All were interested, until the authorities have encouraged the project. For now, there are people who would like to order, but we are still developing the copies."
According Afate, during usage of the printer, there is no need of technical knowledge. The user need only follow the instructions on loading cartridges or material, open a compatible program and send it to the printer, just as is done for images and text.
togo-MMAP-md"Meanwhile, we have no means to produce a large number of machines, because production is also artisan. If we are fortunate to get new funding, we can equip ourselves for this challenge."
Importance for the continent
For the African continent to claim a position on the global scale, it is necessary to find success in politics, democracy, but especially in new technologies. Afate believes that 3D printers are a real source of hope for Africans, because they can create things that Africans want and can change the forms of production.
Afate with his 3D print - Personal Archive "We are no longer slaves to big industries that produce things in series. The 3D printer will help African students to put theory into practice by creating actual objects that are expensive and hard to find... This way, Africa will be energized to consume and become a producer."
Afate reveals that Mali has expressed interest in developing the engine and a team of person from Togo was in the country to install the machine.
– Everyone of you can make your own printer. Thus, we no longer rely on large industries, changed the fabrication method and seek a positive impact on our development. We hope people will support the W.Afate: the first 3D printer made in Africa.