3D Printer Made From E-waste In Africa

We throw away millions of tons of e-waste every year and barely manage to recycle more than 15-20%. [Kodjo Afate Gnikou] is a 33-year old African who has just finished off a 3D printer built almost entirely out of e-waste.

He started the project months ago on Ulule, a European crowdfunding site, and had raised more than €4,000 to develop the idea. It was designed and built in WoeLab, which is the first hackerspace in western Africa. The printer is based on the classic Prusa Mendel, which they had available in the hackerspace.

The goal of the project was to create a 3D printer that is very easy to reproduce using a majority of recycled components. In the end, they succeeded and it only cost $100 to manufacture — while it doesn’t say what the purchased components are, it’s safe to assume they would have to be the main driver boards — everything else could have been made from scraps.

His vision in the future is to send e-waste to Mars to create homes for future inhabitants — far fetched? Maybe. But he did get into the NASA International Space Apps Challenge!

See it all explained in the video after the break.

[via 3ders.org]

37 thoughts on “3D Printer Made From E-waste In Africa

  1. If you’re going to spend tens of billions getting to Mars each trip, you might as well spend a thousand on a printer built from ideal components, without any potential issues or unnecessary weight.

        1. There’s already a handful of “e-waste” robots on mars, and the amount will only continue to increase as we keep sending robots there. Who knows, plutonium from the mars science lab might save someone’s life some day!

    1. Appears one of NASA goals for the challenge in addition to foster interest in the general public to think about solutions to a wide range of things will need to be addressed. The idea that awarding this project an award that NASA believes that this idea, is worthy of mission planning anytime soon is absurd.

  2. It costs about $10,000 usd to send a pound of anything from earth orbit to mars and about $1,000 to get it to leo to begin with, not to mention the propulsion that also needs to be brought to leo. Even if we figure only $11,000 per pound to get something to mars, minimally build carbon fiber, nanotube, titanium alloy machinery is pays for itself many times over vs something made from an old pc case. Great work in the 3D printer, but very bad math on the mars proposal.

    1. It costs that much right now, but hat cost will go down in the future. I doubt his dream is to start shipping tomorrow. Besides, there are many different materials that compose the e-waste landscape. You can’t look at the 3D printer he built from a trash dump and a few extra parts and compare that to his dream of using e-waste from here to build homes for people on Mars someday. The two ideas came from the same man, but they are two totally different ideas.

      1. Ya exactly, the guy was talking about in the future like in the movie “Soldier” with Kurt Russel and they dump tons and tons of crap junk from Earth every month. Ever walk into a thrift store and see all the old picture tube televisions they’re trying to sell? You see son….I have a dream, that one day, Earth will be free of picture tubes…I have a dream, that one day, electronics will be judged not by what consumers paid for them during the 90’s, but by the character of their content, like hoooow owl they ah an hoooow much they weeeigh! Amen. Saaaay Amen Brothah, AMEN Dr. King, Amen. Thank you. Thank you.

  3. I got the impression that it isn’t a case of making an argument for “e-waste is better for Martian construction projects than solution x which costs y amount of money”, more the implication/suggestion that there might be so much crap lying around one day that we may not have a choice…

      1. What…you gonna grow an iPhone tree? Electronic waste poisons the ground and water, period. That’s why so many efforts to recycle it are in play. It would take a very, very long time for a smartphone to completely “decompose” back into basic elements – longer than we can afford as a civilization.

  4. The printer doesn’t excite me. Every salvaged component is going to be a little bit different, requiring significant skill on the part of the builder to compensate for.

    What excites me is the potential for HACKERSPACES to impart that skill.

    1. 3D printer fans all suffer from ‘not-invented-here’ syndrome, so while everyone else does CNC (Mach3, LinuxCNC etc) with g-code, they decided that was sub-par and need to be replaced by an Arduino, ’cause y’know like why not.

      Run is from a parallel port is fine, but the software is a little thin on the ground in that department. (It’s improving.)

  5. About the time the Opportunity and Spirit rovers where making news, in the amateur radio press someone from AMSAT stated that sending an amateur satellite to Mars was “doable”, but they felt that resources would be better spent closer to home.because of that I like the Oklahoma to Mars entry as it’s something that citizen engineers can make happen the soonest. Soon being relative of course.

  6. About sending stuff to Mars–be careful about the whole “things will inevitably get cheaper” assumption. Many things get cheaper, many things do not. Energy has gotten more expensive, and if sending things out to space is primarily energy-intensive, then it may possibly get even more expensive of time. The other part of the question is “how fast will it get cheaper?”

    Anywho, I think his point and hope here is to encourage people, particularly from his own home country and region, and remind them that you can still get a lot done (or at least learn a lot) with very little. It’s something that probably resonates with many hobbyists, many of whom started out with a very small budget when they began.

    With that said, there is something in the background of one of his pictures that reveals one of the unsaid truths of the hobby–the true costs of a hobbyist project are often a lot more than you’d like to admit. If you’re a kid with only a $20 bill in your pocket, more often than not the “$10 project” someone posted online will leave you with an empty wallet, an emptied savings account, and a half completed, sort-of-working project. And you’ll be begging your parents for more money (those were the days. . .)

    An FDM 3d printer, especially one that can even print to the resolution he shows, is a complicated beast full of nuances that you’d be unlikely to understand unless you bought one yourself. I would’ve been astonished if he really built his first 3d printer out of stuff from a scrapyard–but in reality, he already has a completed standard RepRap shown in the background of one of the shots. I would argue that the cost of that was really necessary for him to get the scrapyard model working. The materials needed to build that scrapyard RepRap may have cost $100, but the requisite tools for getting it calibrated and working with some reasonable probability probably easily cost a few times that. While it’s always wonderful to see other people with the same drive to innovate, it’s really just hard to do successfully without at least some amount of money to back it.

  7. I think the idea here is that we can learn to recycle what we have into something else and what type of thinking and extra parts are required to make a new thing, from recycled parts, work properly and well. I am fairly sure that no-one is going to send e-waste to Mars. What we want to know is how good are people at turning one thing into another. oh seems like I am repeating myself. And this story will be repeated in many different forms, and then we will have a whole lot of different views on how to recycle.

  8. As an African, while technically correct I find being described simply as an ‘African’ marginally offensive. He is from Togo.

    “My dream is to give young people hope and to show that Africa, too, has its place on the global market when it comes to technology. We are able to create things.”

  9. It’s not really “scrap” when the guy had funding to build it. Try building it from real scraps from dumster diving at the “rich” dumps like my boys did. They built theirs from old recyled parts. they didn’t buy a single piece of it. now that’s what i call real E-waste!

  10. Yes a very good job,I have always used scrap to build stuff long before anyone thought of a 3 d printer,and no the drivers were probably salvaged from old floppy drives or the scanners themselves,what we need to do is STOP dumping on poor countries….WCH

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