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KLAKS 3D: University Students in Ghana Build 3D Printer from Electronic Waste in Two Weeks

In February, we told you about the East African Buni Hubmaker lab, and the Tanzanian students who built Africa’s first e-waste 3D printer. Following in their footsteps, a 22-year-old from the West African country of Togo built another 3D printer out of e-waste, using the resources of the WoeLab maker space. Now, a group of five university students in Ghana have built their own. They built the 3D printer from electronic waste and local environmentally-friendly materials in just two weeks! The group calls itself KLAKS 3D, and is made up of four students, including group leader Kobina Abakah-Paintsil, in their final year at the University of Mines and Technology (UMAT) and one graduate from the Takoradi Technical University (formerly Takoradi Polytechnic).

The group of students from UMAT (Abakah-Paintsil, Emmanuel Kweku Mensah, Ama Agyapongmaa, and Loic Avegnon) and the Takoradi grad (Isaac Nyankum) were motivated to create their e-waste 3D printer after hearing experts repeatedly call for investment in this type of innovation and technology, saying it’s key to transforming the economy of the west African coastal country. Abakah-Paintsil explained how the group started work on their printer, and it’s reasoning we hear from students time and again: they like physical, practical objects that they can hold and manipulate themselves.

Abakah-Paintsil said, “3D printing was an avenue for us to explore in the sense that we could actually make whatever we needed in the physical realm for us to see.”

Group member Nyankum was also worried about the rate of visiting factories to get their hands on simple, customized educational materials.

“We had a problem with packaging, since we also like practical things we got fed up from always having to imagine things our lecturers have been saying and teaching,” said Abakah-Paintsil.


KLAKS 3D e-waste 3D printer [Photo: KLAKS 3D via Facebook]

Making small items at a high cost using industry companies, when they could really just be 3D printed for less, is normal. The KLAKS 3D initiative promises to stop this runaround way of creating things with their new e-waste 3D printer. Some of the materials they’ve collected to make their printer include screws, bike tubes, land cables, and motors from old, burned-out printers and photocopiers. The electronics for the printer are not made in Ghana, but pretty much everything else is, including the e-waste. It is locally sourced from large markets like the Agblogbloshie Market, a former wetland and suburb of Accra, Ghana, and home to the world’s largest e-waste dumping site. Considering that we throw away over 2 million tons of computers, cell phones, and other consumer electronics every year, the site must be pretty massive.


“What we considered was the fact that we have so much e-waste around,” explained Abakah-Paintsil. “There is the potential of making new things out of what people have discarded as waste. So we take advantage of that.”

He added that by building the 3D printer with e-waste, it drastically reduces the cost, since they don’t have to import everything. The KLAKS 3D e-waste printer is an open source design, and the team’s goal is to see their printers being used to enhance education and learning in schools. They are projecting that within five to ten years, their printers will be used in every basic school, junior high, and high school to improve upon the educational experiences of both the students and the teachers.

Incubation hub Kumasi Hive, based in Kumasi, one of the largest metropolitan areas of Ghana, encourages all innovators, and has offered its support to KLAKS 3D. They develop individual support packages for every business accepted into The Hive Incubator, which, according to their website, can include:

  • Access to maker space equipment

  • Business and technical mentoring

  • Subsidized office, prototyping, and production space

  • Investment Readiness preparation

  • Introduction to their network of customers and preferred investors

  • Membership to The Hive Community, a support ecosystem for entrepreneurs and startups

Kumasi Hive’s co-founder and head of the Incubator Program, Anna Lowe, believes that it is critically important to invest in engineering, for the sake of the country’s national development. The KLAKS 3D printer is especially valuable, as it addresses both the affordability of 3D printing technology, and the ongoing issue of massive amounts of electronic waste.

“We need to give business support to engineering and hardware companies especially on systematisation,” she said.

“Our brilliant team of engineers testing one of our first two #MadeInGhana ewaste 3D Printers,” KLAKS 3D posted on Facebook in June 2016

KLAKS 3D has the potential to be scaled up – it has already sold one of the e-waste 3D printers to a non-government organization, and the team is reporting a high demand for their creation. Since they use e-waste to build it, they will need to secure a main supply chain of recycled components. Discuss in the KLAKS 3Dforum at 3DPB.com.

[Source: Joy Online / Images: KLAKS 3D via Facebook]


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