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Kuunda 3D takes 3D printing to the village

Kuunda 3D takes 3D printing to the village

Last fall, a team from Kuunda 3D Tanzania took the Ultimaker 2 Go 3D printer on an adventure-filled trip to rural Tanzania. The goals of the November 2016 trip were to:

  • test the ability of a 3D printer to operate in rural conditions with intermittent electricity, dust, and no computers
  • gauge the feasibility of teaching and demoing 3D design and printing to average villagers and
  • gather ideas for new print models and designs that can benefit village life.


Heading out to Kahe Town

The Kuunda team including Co-founder Elizabeth Rogers and Marketer/Translator/ Photographer/Driver Kayvan Somani set out from Dar es Salaam and headed 500 km to Kahe Town, a village located on the plains of Mt. Kilimanjaro in northern Tanzania The trip featured car breakdowns ranging from tire punctures to an exploding radiator cover that delayed the trip by three days! Finally, we made it to Kahe Town, a 45-minute drive on a dirt road from Moshi Town, a typical stopover for Mt. Kilimanjaro hikers.

Morning session: Sugar plantation demo

The first stop for the Ultimaker 2 Go was at TPC Limited, one of Tanzania’s largest sugar estates. There, we met with a non-profit TPC Parents Against AIDS that works with women and families affected by HIV and AIDS. When we arrived, there was no electricity as the power plant was down for maintenance. So, we started the demo and power was restored while we passed around printed samples and explained the concepts. Explaining 3D design and 3D printing in Swahili was a real challenge because the language does not contain the words for 3 dimensional. But Kayvan was up to the challenge, and first explained the concepts of length, width, and height in Swahili before explaining how a small machine can take 3D designs created on a computer and produce physical objects in plastic! Our experience teaching 3D printing in Dar taught us that it’s best to show the printer in action so we just started printing. The first print was a simple sewing measuring tool that only takes 15 minutes to print and is a useful tool.

While the Ultimaker 2 Go was printing, a group of curious primary school students dropped by. Kayvan showed them the prints and explained how the machine works. They were very interested in the toys like the airplane because plastic toys aren’t readily available in this area of Tanzania.

At the end of the session, the women came up with a list of useful items they could 3D print… These included:

  • plastic flowers
  • earrings, bracelets, necklaces (with customized names)
  • hair pegs, clips, brushes, combs
  • kitchen utensils, dishes
  • chairs, tables, dustbins
  • buttons




 Afternoon session: The power of 3D printing – without power

Mama Quiga, head of TPAA, treated the team to a delicious lunch before we headed back to Kahe Town for our afternoon session. Elizabeth was on her own. Kayvan had to take the car into Moshi for repairs again! Abduli, our Kahe host, led the translation and training session. The afternoon demo was for a group of Mt. Kilimanjaro porters and motorcycle mechanics. There was no electricity, but this time we didn’t expect it to come back anytime soon. Ever flexible, we connected the Ultimake 2 Go to one of the villager’s solar panel systems. This man uses solar energy to power his lights and TV during frequent power outages. Because the power consumption of an Ultimaker 2 Go is similar to a TV, we were able to run a15 minute print off the inverters without problems. We are pretty sure this was groundbreaking in the world of technology. Just think, we ran a 3D printer powered by a solar panel in rural Africa.

Once again, the demo generated a list of useful print ideas. This list included:

  • light switches
  • lightbulb holders
  • bag locks
  • clothes pegs
  • spare parts for bicycles, cars, and motorcycles
  • plastic shoes

 3D printing for all communities

3D printing has the potential to change lives in even the most remote communities. Everyone that participated in the demonstrations was impressed by the technology and excited about the potential for their community. The groups generated almost 50 ideas of what could be printed and this is just the beginning. We are sure there will be even more ideas to come as they become more familiar with the concept of 3D printing. We will be creating the 3D designs for some of their ideas, printing them, and then sending them back to try. We are looking for an organization or an individual to donate a 3D printer to the TPAA group so they can print and sell useful items in their community. If you would like to get involved, contact us at


Thanks to Ultimaker for their support of this project.

Thanks also to Abduli Hemedi of Kilimanjaro Backcountry Adventures and his parents for hosting us in Kahe Town and arranging the demonstration sessions at TPC and in Kahe.

Special thanks to Kayvan Somani for helping us in so many ways!
Kayvan’s donation of time, driving, and translating skills made this trip possible.


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