A 3D Printer Direct from the Scrap Heap

aforgrave via CC

33 year old Togolese inventor Kodjo Afate Gnikou has created a low-cost 3D printer using bits of electronic waste (e-waste).

Author Anna Rees, 10.22.13

33 year old Togolese inventor Kodjo Afate Gnikou has created a low-cost 3D printer using bits of electronic waste (e-waste).

Afate, who is a member of West Africa’s first hackerspace Woelab, began tinkering with his concept after Woelab imported a Prusa Mendel 3D printer. Noticing some issues during the assembly process, Afate set about building a prototype made from old computers, printers and scanners and is now looking to develop a commercially-viable series of his replicable design.

Afate launched a crowdfunding campaign earlier this year to help give the project a leg up, collecting 4,316 € and surpassing his target of 3,500 €. The project aims to help turn Africa into a major player in what Afate calls a more virtuous industrial revolution while simultaneously addressing the issue of e-waste and introducing 3D printing technology to new markets in a cost-effective way (the W.Afate costs about 100 USD in comparison with retail models which can costs thousands of dollars).

E-waste is a growing problem in West Africa. Early in 2012, the UN expressed concern about the volume and rate of end-life electronics making their way to West African countries from the US and Europe and the burgeoning informal market for trading used electronic device parts afer finding that 70 percent of all imported electronic goods into Ghana were used and that 30 percent of those were non-functioning.

Globally speaking, it is estimated the we will toss away 93.5 million tonnes of electrical equipment per year by 2016. Electronic devices that end up in landfill or outside any regulated recycling process can wreak havoc on personal health and the local environment. Initiatives such as W.Afate address the issue head on in a sensible and useful way. And it seems like not even the sky is the limit for Afate and the Woelab team. Earlier this year, they competed in NASA’s International Space App Challenge with a proposal to make machines from recycled e-waste to help prepare for and support missions on Mars.

Check out Woelab’s page (mostly in French) for videos on creating W.Afate.

iPhone 5 Today, E-waste Tomorrow: Our Terrabyte-Sized Tech Trash

Every year our planet produces 20-50 million metric tons of electronic waste, only 15% of which gets recycled.

Electronic Waste

With the average lifespan of some electric appliances, like computers, estimated to be 3-5 years, it’s little wonder landfill areas are clogged with discarded electronics.Globally, the debate about how best to manage electronic waste continues to rage, while in many parts of the world, an informal, unregulated electronic waste trade and recycling sector is in full bloom.