While in Asia and Europe, 3D printing is becoming more and more mainstream, in most African countries there is yet to be a major breakthrough. But the technology has enormous potential - by allowing everyone to become a manufacturer, it democratises and streamlines access to all kinds of products - from emergency medical equipment to street furniture made from recycled waste to even 3D-printed social housing.
In Kenya the startup AB3D firmly believes in the technology's disruptive potential and is working to make it as accessible as possible. Via workshops, free instructions on the internet and talks, AB3D is inspiring interest in 3D printing and explaining the highly complex production method in a simple and understandable way. With the increasing presence of 3D printing in both the public and private sectors, the founders hope that by engaging a large number of companies and private individuals this will open new doors in the business world and provide a boost to the local economy.
Working together with local companies, they design tailor-made solutions and turn abstract plans and ideas into concrete products. Their services range from helping people download the necessary software to supporting young companies to implement concrete projects. One of those projects includes developing simple but affordable footwear that fit exactly to the feet of their owners - sandal-like shoes primarily designed for people in rural areas who otherwise can't afford shoes and whose feet are constantly exposed to sand fleas.
In another project, 3D printing was used to create additional parts for medical syringes. Due to supply bottlenecks, especially in sparsely populated regions of Kenya, the right attachments or types of syringe are often not available. Using 3D printing software, doctors are now able to individually create the required equipment, meaning there are no longer problems of supply. AB3D doesn't just offer assistance with the 3D printing process - they also build their very own 3D printers using recycled waste electronics.