From Togo: A $100 3-D Printer Made Of eWaste

From Togo: A $100 3-D Printer Made Of eWaste

Kodjo Afate Gnikou built a workable 3-D printer using less than $100 in parts in a place that doesn’t come up often in conversations about African tech incubators – the small West African nation of Togo, FastCompany reports.

A maker space – a workshop where inventors and tinkerers can work on new projects to their heart’s content – exists in the capital city of Lome. Woelab bills itself “Africa’s first space for democratic technology” and it’s Afate’s home. His latest invention was recently unveiled, and it’s amazing, the report said:  a 3-D printer made from cheap discarded electronics that are found all over the world.

His $100 3-D printer integrates leftover parts  from old computers, printers, and scanners found in local dumping places. A few new parts such as motors had to be purchased, but the majority of the 3-D printer was built using recycled local materials.

Afate built the workable 3-D printer using crowdfunding from Ulule. Ulule investors gave him $4,000 to develop the low-cost fabricator and a functional prototype. In his crowdfunding page, Afate compares the potential impact of 3-D printing on society to that of the steam engine in the 19th century.

“My dream is to give young people hope and to show that Africa, too, has its place on the global market when it comes to technology. We are able to create things. Why is Africa always lagging behind when it comes to technology?” the inventor said, according to Euronews.

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Woelab’s YouTube page includes numerous examples of the printer in action. Although it is still only a prototype, it has successfully gone through extrusion tests and is functional.

Afate’s 3-D printer, called the W.Afate (The W is for Woelab), is a home-made replica of the Prusal Mendel, a popular printer in the U.S. and Europe. Only, instead of using parts purchased in stores, the W.Afate can be constructed from discarded electronic waste.

Much of the W.Afate’s core is based around reused rails and belts from old scanners.

The next step for the W.Afate is participation in NASA‘s International Space Apps Challenge, a competition for technology designed to get mankind to Mars.

Afate’s entry is part of a mixed Togolese-French team that is offering proof-of-concept proposals for developing custom-fabricated mechanical equipment parts. In his proposal, Afate said his printer model can allow 3-D printers to be created in any environment using already-existing equipment.

“Rather than send its computing waste to the poor countries, why the West would not send them on Mars?” he said in his proposal.

Africa has a huge electronic waste problem. In promotional materials, Afate pointed out the massive Agbogbloshie toxic electronic waste dump in Ghana. Hundreds of tons of discarded computers and industrial equipment end up at Agbogbloshie each month, with usable spare parts and equipment mixed in with poisonous waste, according to the report.