Tanzanian project ventures into 3D printer development
SCI & TECH
By Josephat Siror
| Jan 15th 2015 | 3 min read
SCI & TECH
DARES SALAAM: A bilateral project supported by Finland in Tanzania is diversifying to hardware development business starting this year.
The project implemented through Tanzania Science and Technology (Tanzict) is taking giant leap into ambitious three - dimensional (3D) printer development at its innovation hub based in Dar es salaam.
Confirming the new developments, co-manager at Tanzict, Brian Paul says the venture into hardware will revolutionise printing industry across the country and the region. ''Hardware product development is part of innovation process we are now focusing from next year (2015). We see it as a revolutionary field to explore,'' said Brian who is also innovation mentor incubation hub.
The assembling of the 3D prototype device from e-waste materials has begun setting stage for its propulsion into full scale development of infrastructure. "We have a lot of materials locally but there is absence of infrastructure. Innovation should be focused on creating infrastructure," he explains of the hardware.
At Buni hub, intensive brainstorming sessions involving mentors and innovators has been ongoing. Plans for a soon-to-be launched 'Fablab' which will act as assembly centre for the printer have also been completed,officials confirmed in an interview recently.
Easily available bulk of e-waste in Tanzania would mean that production costs will be reduced making the device competitive against mainstream ones. Already,Buni hub innovators are gearing up to develop 3D printer having undergone intensive training to make a commercial device with modern capabilities.
With financial aid from Finland, Tanzania and by extent East Africa could soon be able to buy the first 3D printer locally, a shift that would potentially change import of printing machines.
If all goes as planned , the project marks a major shift at Buni hub creating potential economical clout where innovations have, in the past, largely focused on developing software solutions.
According to Buni hub manager, Jumanne Mtambalike, such technological prototypes are part of future plans that can be scaled out at industrial level. "We want to focus more on production of hardware and prototypes that can be used reliably at industrial level and communities,"he says.
3D printing technologies have recently been regarded by pundits as futuristic device with high efficiency.
Innovators of 3D printer in Tanzania are burning oil to ensure the printer hits the market soon.
Buoyedby local demand, they have pulled their minds together in a group called 'Make Fellows that is facilitated by community mentors. The group are meeting weekly at COSTECH building to participate in guided sessions for development of 3D printer technologies and other hardware concepts. "They (innovators) meet almost every week to discuss user needs and that is where ideas arose," explained Brian of the project.
According to Buni development plan, the project will rely heavily on waste materials conveniently obtainable locally. "There are a lot of electronic waste around, why don't we make use of them?" poses Brian.
A co-sponsored assessment conducted three years ago and based on scientifical matrixes by Cleaner Production Centre (CPC) predicted that Tanzania will generate close to 9,500 tonnes of e-waste from computers alone.
Officials hailed the financial aid from Finland, which has been leading development projects in Tanzania. "Without the support from Finland, definitely we wouldn't have been here," said Brian adding those resources must be seen to create value.
Finnish government financial and technical support seem to be heading Tanzanian innovators the right trajectory. Evidently, most of projects contain the element of employment creation and economic development.
Head of Trade development cooperation, Kati Manner expressed confidence in projects supported by Finland in Tanzania. Such projects, Manner says, are aimed at creating employment, economic growth and sustainability all clustered in a three-year development strategy plan for Tanzania.
She further added; "We have several programmes clustered in three main and this will form major in achieving sustainable economic development." The programmes include, agriculture, land use, good governance and eradication of poverty.
Ms Manner reflects that existing bilateral partnership in Africa countries is yielding fruits and would go a long way in enhancing economies. "Most of the programmes here we work closely with the government and discuss priority areas, for example Tanzict technological projects," said recently in an interview at embassy headquarters office in Dares Salaam.
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