Tag Archives: 3D printing

A Strong Team of Women

We are incredibly blessed by the amount of strong ass women in our lives. We are a force that is much greater than any one of us alone. This week has been a tough one and without my dream team I wouldn’t know how I could handle another day.

In Dar es Salaam, Adella did a Usability Study of the microscope at Kairuki Hospital and it worked beautifully. All is well in the design process, but to get these tools to mamas in village we need more funds for additional out of Dar testing.

On the downside, a tenant moved out of the Volunteer House and took much of the Trust’s property with her. We had to spend two days scrambling to replace even the basics on our kitchen. Our new guests have been most kind given the unexpected circumstances. Our trustee, wise woman Sally has been a stronghold of strength and guidance on how cope with the situation in the best possible way.

Here in Mombasa, its been one thing after another. Sabenza has powered through taking care of the house and we are starting sprouting seeds for a garden. A single mother of 6, Sabenza cooks over firewood so we had her son, and a friend gather all the wood from the yard today.

The boys also helped to rebuild and sort out all the trash into a new recycling system. Now that all plastic bags have been outlawed including trash bags we have had to get creative. Here there are no garbage trucks so its 100% self process.

All recyclable plastics become seed trays, planters, pots, and rooting cups. Sabenza and I take cuttings and keep scraps of food to replant. Strong women think about food security.

Opportunity knocks, but trouble just walks in and sits down. That’s precisely what happened Tuesday night when a little kitten with a bad anal prolapse walked into the house. I couldn’t stand to see it die, but couldn’t afford in our budget to help it. Another strong woman named Revi stepped to the plate to help and her furry adorable namesake is alive and well after its operation.

Our wonder women in the US have been working to sell houses, raise bushels of children, and still somehow have time to help with marketing and fundraising.

One of the issues of fundraising is that big organizations give little ones like ours a bad name. I’m thankful for the women who keep me and our work afloat and rowing.

Speaking of wow women, I am so thrilled I was able to help my mother in law get a visit visa to the US to see my brother in law. She has carried so much for so long she deserves a vacation. I mean don’t we all?

As for my work I’ve been learning how to do clinical trials, and preparing a team, to be lead by an unstoppable Canadian woman, so can submit a grant to “gold standard” our tools and make way for FDA standard approvals.

Next week I’m excited that I’ll be able to help teach 3D printing here in Mombasa with a Maker Queen. No matter how topsy turvey the world may be, us strong women stand together. Who knows maybe one a group of softly gray haired women could take over the world. For now, one day at a time.

To learn more about Voices of Africa Foundation or make a donation, visit our website www.voicesofafrica.org.

It cost me an arm and a leg…

3D printing limbs in East Africa

I have said this countless times giving it only passing thought. This saying is often passed off under your breath, or when describing a shopping experience gone wrong, usually when you buy something that was too expensive. However what would be too expensive for you to have to give up an actual arm or a leg? What would you be willing to give to get that limb in some way replaced?


The leading causes of limb loss are severe injuries as caused in accidents and wars, cancerous tumors, birth defects, serious infection, and complications from diabetes. People give their physical arms and legs for these reasons so they can continue to carry on with their lives. In developed countries, such as the United States, there is access to prosthetic limbs. These often expensive medical devices allow the amputee to have some sense of normalcy and to continue with a functional life.

What do you think happens in developing countries? Places where war and other tragedies abound? The people who lose their limbs often are left without access to employment, and thus suffer throughout the remainder of their lives. There is a key role than 3D printing and new software development can play in serving those who have faced such a price for the chance to live.

Amputee in Sierra Leone http://www.irinnews.org/photo/201110241136160688/edward-conteh-president-amputee-and-war-wounded-association-founded-2000
Using recycled American prosthesis, Muhimbili National Hospital in Tanzania sells arms for around $500 each. The devices are handmade and require multiple fittings and adjustments. Although there is high demand for legs, those prosthesis are seldom donated and are largely unavailable. At present, using eNable and LimbForge designs we are able to print a variety of plastic hand and arm prosthesis. The plastics we are working with currently are not strong enough for legs, so we are watching and waiting for the technology for metal printing to reduce in price, as of now it is out of our reach. Fund raising is underway for new equipment and consumables to continue this project in Dar es Salaam, and perfect the model for export to other cities and countries.

With the help of a team of PhD students at Clemson University, we are also tackling the tough issue of precise measurements and scaling of the 3D models to the specific patient digitally using an iPhone. This component is especially important when dealing with children who grow and who will need new devices and fittings at various times. Wearing a prosthesis that does not fit well can be painful and uncomfortable, and cause additional damage to the amputation site. It is essential to ensure that the poor are not offered a lower quality product simply due to their economic disempowerment. Quite to the contrary, it is our purpose to design the best technology has to offer so that it can serve those who need it most.

Thanks to our partnership with the Handicapped General Partnership in Tanzania, and the Kigamboni Dar es Salaam local government, we have a listed of affected people who are waiting for our help. The government including the Commission of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Health are supportive and have offered technical assistance. Due to recent budget cuts in the health sector, neither are able to commit financial resources at this time. Necessity is the mother of all innovation, and it pushes us to achieve even in limiting circumstances.

We can foresee in the near future limbs replacement being available throughout the developing world with access to 3D printers, design files, and scanning technology. Using technology, we make it affordable and possible for everyone to live normally without their natural limbs. That will be priceless.

Africa and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Africa’s generalized image in the minds of much of the “developed” world is that of poor people, in some far off nation, possibly fighting somewhere, with great wildlife. While these are in part true, there is another side that the journalists rarely cover. It is the immense wealth of resources of Africa countries that can be their largest curse or their greatest blessing. All the drivers for economic growth are abundant and primed for exploitation, the question is who are and who should be, the beneficiaries.

Central Business District, Nairobi, Kenya

If the natural resources of most African nations were utilized for local development and growth, as many are now attempting, then an economic revolution becomes possible at the grassroots level forever redefining the trajectory of the continent.

Though no two countries in Africa are alike, after visiting 15 different nations and studying the continent, I can elucidate a few broad insights. First, presently and historically, the exportation of raw goods for external processing is a main form of economic wealth. Take a look at Nigeria and their oil riches, DRC and their diamonds, and Northern Kenya’s natural gas as examples. Even the small holder farmer has fields sown exclusively for direct export crops.

Coffee farmers grow amazing beans and are sold back their labor in single serving Instant sachets. The coffee farmers do not process the coffee so they cannot enjoy the fruits of their labor equitably, even at the breakfast table. A Kenyan from Limuru tea country once came back from the United Kingdom and told me that for the first time, he had tasted the sweetest leaves of his life, yet they came from his homeland. The raw commodities of Africa fueled the industrial growth and economic development of colonial masters and their subsidiary colonies. Remember, the American Revolution was in part sparked, by tea no less, which could possibly have originally been grown in East Africa.

Now, fast forward to the East Africa I live in today. I have WiFi internet at home, M-pesa, running water, online shopping for electronics, food delivery, Uber and electricity. That is a giant leap forward in comparison to 10 years ago. Technology and infrastructure development are lessening the gaps between people and between nations.

The children growing up in Kenya are adopting American media culture at lightning speed. More than half of the population of Kenya are youth below to age of 20, and they are all eager to learn to use technology. The middle class have all the same smart phones, tablets, laptops, and Netflix, yes Netflix, as their American counterparts. Often we have access to movies on DVD even before the American market!

The Fourth Industrial Revolution of 3D printing technology and the localization of micro industries continues to level the playing field. Digital manufacturing brings the hope for the design and development of new products for Africa, in Africa. New designs for jewelry, parts for machinery and electronics, consumer goods, agricultural applications, and healthcare are being released daily and can be sent via email and printed anywhere in the world.

Plastic filament at the workshop and products made in Tanzania

The medical tools being designed and printed by Voices of Africa were made by volunteers and interns in California, the Netherlands, India, US, Canada, and Tanzania. All have been prototyped on our Tanzanian made 3D printers and are being tested in Tanzanian medical facilities. It is the first time medical tools have been designed and manufactured in Tanzania by Tanzanians.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution poses an opportunity to change the collective image of Africa. Youth have new prospects for the future, and the information they need to realize a brighter tomorrow is at their fingertips. If ever there was a proving time for the continent, it is now.

WaterScope Microscopes

3D printed digital microscope

Waterscope is an organization that created a digital microscope designed for the detection microorganisms and other pollutants in water. For the purpose of empowering the bottom billion to secure clean water. There are billions of people that lack clean safe drinking water and death occurring because of waterborne diseases. Due the fact that water testing equipment are expensive and hard to use this results to lack information and no treatment for the water. Therefore Waterscope aim to create an easy and cheap way to test water.


Waterscope microscopes are a 3D printed Open Flexure microscopes. Using an innovative and inexpensive 3D printed microscope which is either by using a USB cable or raspberry Pi. Thanks to its flexure- based design, its motion is free from friction and vibration and achieves sub-micron precision and range of 8mm. due to the fact that this is a digital microscope whereby the image can be view on a computer monitor or phone when connected by a USB cable or the images from the camera can be processed by a raspberry Pi and transmitted wireless to a smartphone, tablet or PC. This technology is helpful in ways that testing is very easy with less experience needed to operate the microscope. Pictures can be viewed, saved and sent to anyone anywhere for further preview or analysis. Using 3D printer to create this microscope has made it significantly smaller, lighter and cheaper than today’s microscopes and testing kits.

The Waterscope microscope was specifically made to test water but found that it can be implemented in more fields of testing. Malaria is one of the biggest problems, constantly being testing so there is the need to acquire fast, cheap and easy means of testing it. Due to the fact that in most villages and urban areas there is the lack of microscopes and experts for accurate diagnosis brings the need of having means of dealing with this.


Ups and Downs of 3D Printing in Africa

Ups and Downs of 3D Printing in Africa

There are benefits and obstacles of using 3D printing in TANZANIA(AFRICA) as addressed in the following reasons;


Limited markets, with less product choice comparatively to the global north, particularly in more rural areas, drives the desire for customization. It is more difficult to source the part you may need or it may be necessary to adapt products to the use case. 3D printing enables mass customization.

Supply issues, importing products from abroad and/or transporting them through the country incurs large costs and can often take months. Comparative to the delivery ability of ‘amazon prime’ in Europe and USA, there is significant potential in being able to eliminate the supply chain.

Adaptation to the environment, the majority of products that are designed, are designed for the environment in which they are originally designed. 3D printing enables designs to be easily adapted for the local environment. An example is Beehives made in the US are designed for bees in the US. African bees are about half the size of those in US and hence the queen bee cups need to be half the size of those mass produced in the US

Bottom-up manufacturing, There is a large funding gap for low scale innovations. The majority of startups are unable to get capital investment to invest in larger scale manufacturing processes. 3D printing allows for very low scale manufacturing to start a business. Example PrinPo, a startup producing 3D printed visual teaching aids has been able to manufacture products instantly given access to 3D printers.

Culture of reuse and recycling, There is a culture for fixing, re-using and recycling old parts. This culture is lacking in the global north where consumers tend to throw away and purchase new. 3D printers are a great resource for fixing broken appliances. Example STICLab fixed a food blender that had broken of one of their friends with a simple 3D printed part.


Design skills lacking amongst the general population, The National Curriculum incorporates ‘Aesthetics’ which consists of fine arts, theatre art, physical education and music. These are all optional subjects for schools to teach. http://www.tie.go.tz/docs/CURRICULUM%20FOR%20SECONDARY%20EDUCATION.pdf

Additionally, schools don’t have the resources (computers/programs), teachers or facilities to teach design. At the University level CAD skills are taught amongst engineering students.

Slow to adopt new technology, Tanzanian households and industries have been slow to adopt new technologies in the past compared to their neighboring nations. http://www.thecitizen.co.tz/News/TZ-fails-to-gain-from-digital-wealth/-/1840340/3048062/-/jolwup/-/index.html. Only about 22% of companies with more than 5 employees used the internet in their operations in Tanzania compared to 73% in Kenya. http://www.thecitizen.co.tz/News/TZ-fails-to-gain-from-digital-wealth/-/1840340/3048062/-/jolwup/-/index.html, http://www.worldbank.org/en/publication/wdr2016

Importing filament is expensive, shipping and import costs are high in Tanzania. Filament is expensive globally which becomes more limiting if the purchasing power of the general population is comparatively low. Example, A roll of filament purchased in Tanzania costs 80,000 TSH ($36.53) per kg comparative to $20/kg in the Uk.

In conclusion of the advantages and disadvantages above I believe that if we change the systems by encouraging, motivating and incorporating the technology of 3D in Africa a lot more then we can make a big difference in terms of promoting design skills, more rapid adaptation to technology and cheaper prices of filament and printers.

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