While the technology has been around for some time, 3D printing is still relatively new in Zimbabwe. Its full potential is yet to be realised, but both the young generation and enthusiastic elders are taking the step to embrace the technology. There have also been some notable applications and effort to bring the technology to light within the Zimbabwe environment. The timing is right considering a great local entrepreneurial and innovative spirit which will immensely benefit from the application of the technology.
A few companies are offering 3D printing services but they are not many. In terms of numbers, they are less than ten. Their services mainly entail basic prototyping and models for student design projects, design engineers and architects. Then there is also customized branding for corporates items like gifts, ornaments, collectibles and personalized toys for kids. Other services include maker clubs and hubs where the young generation are taught and can practise 3D printing.
Schools and technical universities are trying to include the technology as part of their activity but it’s still a journey. As part of my consultancy work in promoting the technology, I had the privilege of exhibiting the technology for the Zimbabwe STEM program so that it would be a component of the program. This exhibition took place at the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair and it was primarily a demonstration of the technology including how it works and what it produces. I have also used the technology to develop a bottle prototype for the largest drink manufacturer in Zimbabwe, Delta beverages for their dark beer, and the bottle design was approved and currently being used for a 1.5L container in the market.
Another very recent development in 3D printing in Zimbabwe is a local based company that is working on developing prosthetics for amputees and the disabled. One particular project is developing a prosthetic hand for a popular and well-known local footballer, Hardlife Zvirekwi who lost his hand in a car crash. The local company, Nashua Zimbabwe is currently working on this and hope to extend the service to the Zimbabwean populace.
Zimbabwe generally strives to embrace and implement new and disruptive technologies. The students will form the pillar in the drive to promote the technology in the country as they are up to date with the latest technology. That is why it is important for Zimbabwean schools to train and teach the technology for its proper application and make noble use of it. The adoption of 3D printing as part of the educational curriculum will go long a way promoting the technology. Not forgetting the hobbyists and enthusiasts who can get a fair share of exposure via industrial hubs that have been set up across the country.
Zimbabwe is ready for 3D printing technology and it will help to create and foster an innovative, creative and inventive environment. 3D printing will help to improve Zimbabwe’s economy and solve many technical problems the country is facing. A bright future lies ahead for 3D printing business in Zimbabwe and the time is now to further tap into the full business opportunity and potential of service provision. The application areas are vast especially for Zimbabwe’s activities in manufacturing, agriculture, mining and energy, healthcare facilities and educational institutes, all of which can make use of 3D printing.
The agriculture sector will benefit from customized irrigation parts and farming equipment spares, while mining will also use 3D printing for specialized mining spares for mobile plants and also 3D printing of desktop geological and mining excavations works as a way for mine planning purposes. The energy sector will benefit from customized equipment such as hydro turbines for mini runoff river hydropower schemes which are growing popular in the country.
Challenges that also need to be dealt with in terms of promoting the technology is funding 3D printing businesses and services. This is still a bit of an issue as the initial cost can be high for reseller activities. Availability of funds can speed up the establishment of a 3D printing ecosystem.
3D printing will be one of the main technologies to spearhead an industrial revolution in Zimbabwe and economic driver as long as it falls into the solution-driven hands of the Zimbabwean younger generation. The technology is good to go in Zimbabwe and it’s already started to grow.