3D printing is a trend that doesn’t look to fizzle out. It is changing the way industry works and enabling small businesses all over the world. The prices of printers are coming down steadily and it is even possible to scavenge the parts and make one yourself! 3D printers and the availability of effective 3D scanners are giving unlimited opportunities to individuals, businesses and even medical suppliers, as you will see below. There are some negative aspects to this, with security threatened as it is now very easy to scan and print house keys using fairly rudimental 3D printing equipment. But, on the whole, 3D printing will speed up the supply chain and change people’s lives in a positive way.

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3D printed prosthetic by RoboBeast

3D printing has already been drastically changing the lives of some Africans. RoboBeast have been printing prosthetic limbs for people off the back of a Landrover in the African bush. This durable 3D printer is working under tough condition in remote areas and proves how versatile the 3D printing industry has become. It is now even possible to 3D print in metal, which would cut out the transportation fees for many industries. (The metal 3D printers are still very expensive)

ReFab Dar, based in Tanzania, are hoping to take advantage of the increased effectiveness of 3D printing. The aim to create the opportunity to 3D print vital medical supplies across Africa. This would enable Africa to take control, supplying itself with medical equipment it can not do without. They have set up a hacking competition and invited participants to design 3D printed medical tools. The competition focusses on tools that hep prevent HIV and birthing equipment. The submission date was on the 20th, and finalists will be announced on the 31st of March.

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ReFab Dar have another innovation up their sleeve, also in the 3D printing sector, killing two birds with one stone! Currently they are taking plastic waste and turning it into the raw material for 3D printers, unlocking its value. Plastic waste is a scourge that plagues the continent. Countries like Rwanda seem to have been able to deal with it, but in many other countries, plastic is seen everywhere throughout the major cities in Africa. Currently, 3D printing is not utilised enough in anywhere in the world to clean up all the plastic waste, but as it becomes more and more effective, and with competitions like ReFab Dar’s for creating medical supplies, it will become more prevalent across the continent. The raw material is just sitting their waiting to be used. It is even possible that the bottling and packaging companies realise that they are missing out on an income and will do more to clear up and recycle the waste after its usage. Check out the video from their website, it is incredible innovation that can change Tanzania and the whole of Africa!

3D printing can be utilised in so may industries. Medical supplies may be one of the most important for the general health of the continent, but equipment for farmers, mechanics,  tradesman, like plumbers and electricians, scientific equipment for schools, and even bigger industries such as laptop manufacturers like Positivo in Rwanda, could take advantage of 3D printing to make their operations more efficient.

Good luck to all those taking part in the ReFab Dar 3D printing hack. We can’t wait to see the results! If you know of any other 3D printing solutions and innovations in Africa, or you want to be a guest blogger get in contact with us on Twitter @InventiveAfrica or via  email, and please share the blog with your network on Twitter and FacebookAlso, we have a new Facebook page! Please like it, and carry on the dialogue about African Innovation there!

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