Fabricastl is a longtime supporter of 3D printing in the 3rd world, with a project of our own (to be announced soon) in our pocket. Still, we were tremendously excited to see this project reach its initial funding goal—the strategy for building the W.Afate 3D printer brings our own philosophy about introducing truly sustainable models of 3D printing in underdeveloped countries to the next level.
Simply put, the W.Afate effort will not only put 3D printers on the ground in the West African Republic of Togo, it will begin to address a large and growing crisis of irresponsible e-waste disposal. The greater region (which includes neighboring countries like Ghana) burns 93% of its 515 tons of e-waste each year, an activity with pollution impacts on 35 cities, and one that increases cancer risks among waste management facility workers.
Using discarded CPUs, motors from copiers and scanners, Arduino cards, electrical wires, and rails, the W.Afate effort will repurpose these parts by using them as key components in consumer-grade printers. With cost as the most obvious impediment to bringing 3D printers to developing countries (similar printers, when ordered new from popular manufacturers, range in price from $3,000 to $6,000), the value in repurposing free, locally-sourced parts to self-manufacture printers is clear. More importantly, it is a model that could be replicated nearly everywhere else in the third world.
Photo Credit: http://spaceappschallenge.org/project/wafate-to-mars/