Dec 23, 2016 | By Benedict

A group of students in Ghana is using recycled e-waste to build 3D printers. The group, which calls itself Klaks 3D, consists of final-year students from the University of Mines and Technology (UMaT) and one graduate from Takoradi Technical Institute.

With the 3D printing industry valued at around $4.8 billion, and with both industrial and consumer 3D printers currently selling well across a number of sectors, governments of various countries are beginning to incentivize the production of 3D printers and 3D printing equipment. The South Korean government has plans to offer significant tax exemptions for 3D printing R&D, the Dutch government recently invested €134 million in 3D printing, and just last month France announced new strategies for improving 3D printing and advanced manufacturing. This trend could soon continue in the African country of Ghana, where experts have been crying out for investment in additive technologies that could potentially transform the nation’s economy.

Motivated by the opinions of technology experts in Ghana, a group of five university students and graduates has started an exciting new 3D printing project that aims to transform electronic waste and locally sourced components into functional 3D printers. The students, aged between 21 and 25, come from the University of Mines and Technology (UMaT) and Takoradi Technical University, and have been busy making their first prototypes of 3D printers that could be used in educational settings.

According to the group, which calls itself Klaks 3D, the project started because of a simple problem they encountered when trying to create packaging without adequate manufacturing tools: “Since we also like practical things, we got fed up from always having to imagine things our lecturers have been saying and teaching,” explained Kobina Abakah-Paintsil, leader of the group. “3D printing was an avenue for us to explore, in the sense that we could actually make whatever we needed in the physical realm for us to see.”

Building 3D printers from waste materials has presented a challenge for Klaks 3D, but the Ghanian students believe that making a success of the project will make life easier for a lot of people in the region: instead of ordering small numbers of parts from factories, businesses will now be able to create custom 3D printed parts on a Klaks 3D printer, saving both time and money.

Incredibly, the functional 3D printers being made by Klaks 3D contain screws, square-pipes, and motors sourced from broken 2D printers and photocopiers, while bike tubes and land cables collected from the local Agblogbloshie market have also been used in the cobbled-together additive manufacturing machines.

With the exception of the electronics, which are not made in Ghana, basically everything is locally sourced—including the e-waste. This, according to the group, has made development of the 3D printers highly cost-effective. “What we considered was the fact that we have so much e-waste around,” said Abakah-Paintsil. “There is the potential of making new things out of what people have discarded as waste. So we take advantage of that.”

The design of the 3D printers is entirely open source, and Kumasi-based innovation hub Kumasi Hive has stepped in to support the group with technical and business advice. Anna Lowe, co-founder and manager of the incubator program, thinks investing in engineering businesses is critical for national development: “We need to give business support to engineering and hardware companies, especially on systematization,” she said.

Klaks 3D, which will be posting progress updates through its Facebook page, has already sold one of its 3D printers to a non-governmental organization, but hopes its 3D printers will someday be used to enhance teaching and learning in local schools.



Posted in 3D Printer



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