3D Printing Africa: South Africa’s 3D Printing Sector

By guest author Farai Mashambanhaka, 3D Printing

If there is one country Africa that has seriously ventured into the 3D printing sector with active participation, it is South Africa.

Since 2012, the country at the located at the bottom of the African continent has covered significant ground in developing along with the 3D printing technology. Many international renowned 3D printer manufacturers and suppliers have set up a base engaging several local South African companies in their reseller programs and through distributorship deals. There are over fifteen companies in South Africa directly involved in 3D printing services and such a number is a good one from an African perspective.

3D printed jawbone implant

South Africa is relatively well developed, when compared to other African states and this propels an appetite for advanced technology and so it has been comparatively easy for the development of a 3D printing landscape in South Africa. And, they have been proud pioneers in the development and implementation of the technology. In 2014, South African doctors successfully completed jawbone replacement surgery using 3D printed titanium bones and at that time it was the second time such an exercise was done anywhere in the world.

The South African 3D Printer Aeroswift

On top of the previously mentioned success story, South Africa through the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in partnership with Aerusud, an aviation manufacturing company have built one of the world’s biggest printers under a project dubbed Aeroswift. The printer has capability to print tiny items to large customized parts as tall as 2m. The other beauty is the use of titanium powder, which lets parts be used for aerospace.

Another 3D printing development worth mentioning is the creation of South Africa’s very own 3D printer: the Robobeast. This a 3D printer made in South Africa by South Africans and a world class home grown solution, something Africa needs for true inspiration. To my understanding, the printer is considered to be a competitive machine on the market and this makes it worthwhile to mention this.

South Africa’s 3D printing ecosystem has enjoyed a thriving community of enthusiasts and designers and this has been supported by a local tech site called Hypertext, which has published creation stories of 3D printed items in South Africa so as to keep abreast with the local development and activities.

From a South African industrial perspective, the availability of 3D printing services is of great importance especially when it comes to customizing spare parts and prototyping. South Africa’s manufacturing space is one of the big benefactors of the technology and it solves the supply chain issue regarding spares considering how far they are from the European Hub.

Robobeast 3D Printer

The continuous application of 3D printing technology in South Africa further strengthens the growth of the market and it is pretty much definite, that 3D printing is and will continue to thrive in this Sub Sahara part of the world. Coming from a neighbouring country to South Africa, I believe they have done extremely well and they are a true inspiration in the support and development of the technology. There is great potential from South Africa and they equally can be considered as one of the leading African nation in spearheading the advancement of 3D printing.

Job creation and entrepreneurial support is of paramount importance in Africa and 3D printing is slowly and very surely addressing this as is evident with the South Africa’s technology hub with small initiatives and start-ups emerging with a bias of 3D printing services.

The 3D printing in South Africa is a Government strategy

The technology is there and the future is bright for South Africa. In Africa, one can currently look down south for technological solutions to technical problems.  From a funding point of view, South Africa has done well to the extent that the Government has made strides to make 3D printing a Government strategy. As they say “Proudly South African” and thumbs up to their 3D printing landscape.

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