Kuunda 3D Takes Ultimaker to a Tanzanian Village


In November 2016, a team from Kuunda 3D Tanzania took our Ultimaker 2Go 3D printer on an adventure into rural Tanzania. There were several goals of this trip: 1) test whether a 3D printer could be used in a rural village with intermittent electricity, dust, and no computers 2) test whether it’s possible to teach and demo the concept of 3D design and printing to average villagers and 3) gather ideas for new models and designs that could be printed to benefit village life.

Our team (Co-founder – Elizabeth Rogers and Marketer/Translator/Photographer/Driver – Kayvan Somani) headed to Kahe Town, located in the plains of Mt Kilimanjaro in northern Tanzania. As Kuunda 3D is based in Dar es Salaam, we had to drive over 500 km to reach the village. Unfortunately, we had a number of car breakdowns along the way, ranging from tire punctures to a radiator cover exploding, which delayed our visit by three days! Eventually we made it to Kahe Town, about a 45 minute drive on a dirt road from Moshi Town, a typical stopover point for Mt Kilimanjaro hikers.

Ultimaker in the car

The first stop for the Ultimaker 2Go was at TPC Limited, one of Tanzania’s largest sugar estates. There, we met with an NGO called TPAA (TPC Parents Against AIDS), that works with women and families affected by HIV and AIDS. When we first arrived, there was no electricity because the sugar estate’s power plant was undergoing maintenance. Fortunately we were able to start the demo and the power came back while passing around printed samples and explaining the concepts. It’s a little bit difficult to explain 3D design and 3D printing in Swahili, as the language does not contain words for 3 dimensional! However, Kayvan, did a great job at first explaining the concept of length, width and height in Swahili, and then proceeded to explain how this small machine can take 3D designs that are created on a computer and create real physical objects in plastic!! From our experience teaching 3D printing in Dar, we’ve found that it’s best to just show this in action and so we just started printing. We printed a simple sewing measuring tool, as it was a quick 15 minute print on the UM 2Go and we thought it could be a useful tool for the women.

3D printing at TPC

While the Ultimaker 2Go was printing, a number of primary school students dropped by to see what was going on. Kayvan showed them the prints and explained how the machine worked as best he could. They were most interested in the toys, such as the airplane, as it’s harder to come by plastic toys in this area of Tanzania.

3D printing Tanzania

At the end of the session the women came up with a list of items they thought could be 3D printed and would be useful for them. A few of these were:

  • Plastic flowers
  • Earrings, bracelets, necklaces (with customized names)
  • Hair pegs, clips, brushes, combs
  • Kitchen utensils, dishes
  • Chairs, tables, dustbins
  • Buttons

After a delicious and welcoming lunch hosted by the head of TPAA, Mama Quiga, we headed back to Kahe Town for our next session. Elizabeth was on her own as Kayvan had to take the car into Moshi to fix yet another puncture! So our Kahe host, Abduli, led the translation and training session for a group of Mt Kilimanjaro porters and motorcycle mechanics. Again, there was no electricity, but this time we didn’t expect it to come back any time soon. So…we connected it up to one of the villager’s solar panel systems, which he usually uses to power his lights and TV when the power cuts. The power consumption of the Ultimaker 2Go is similar to a TV, so we were able to run the 15 minute print off the inverters with no problem! We think this is indeed a first – running a 3D printer off a solar panel in a rural African village 🙂

3D printing teaching in Tanzania

Once again, the demo generated a list of ideas of what would be useful to print, some of which were:

  • Light switches
  • Light bulb holders
  • Bag locks
  • Clothes pegs
  • Spare parts for bicycles, cars and motorcycles
  • Plastic shoes

Everyone we demo’d to was very impressed by the technology and excited to potentially have access to it. The groups generated almost 50 different ideas of what could be printed and we expect more and more ideas to come as they get used to the concept of 3D printing. We plan on creating the 3D designs for the best of their ideas and then printing and sending the items back to them to try. The hope is that we can find an organization to donate a 3D printer to the TPAA group so they can print and sell items of use to their community. Please get in touch if you’d like to be involved in this project!

Kuunda in Tanzania

Thanks to Ultimaker for supporting this project.

Thanks also to Abduli Hemedi of Kilimanjaro Backcountry Adventures, and his parents, for hosting us in Kahe Town and arranging the demonstration sessions at TPC and in Kahe.

Special thanks to Kayvan Somani for helping out in so many ways! Without Kayvan’s donation of his time and driving and translating skills, this trip would not have happened.

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