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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;

Advantages

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.

Disadvantages

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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