The world’s first 3D printer made from e-waste, ‘W.Afate’ was invented by WoeLab, a maker space that is committed to the concept of low high-tech in Lomé, Togo.
The lab specializes in expanding or replicating advanced technologies using local resources. In a 2012 workshop, the lab set up a RepRap printer called Prusa from a kit that we brought from France.
Afterwards, this group set themselves the challenge of replicating the machine according to the low high-tech concept. The lab members chose to build one from IT scrap, since this waste is now practically a local resource for them at the moment.
Recycled consumer goods, especially fashion items and accessories, have been trending in recent years – think of Planet3R using plastic wastes to make textile designs and accessories, necklaces made from paper scrap and a lot more.
Nowadays, you can produce textiles and sponges from plastic waste, and chairs from car tires. But would you have guessed that you can actually build a 3D printer from waste?
The WoeLab, a small group of hackers and builders from Togo constructed the first 3D printer called W.Afate made almost entirely from e-waste. No big company and no huge funds are behind the project, just some creative minds who met at the WoeLab maker space in Togo’s capital Lomé.
The W.Afate printer functions like a regular 3D printer, it can print any kind of small plastic item based on a 3D modelling file.
One of the inventors, Josué Tchirktema, in an interview with ‘Tea by Twelve’ mentioned that, ‘even though W.Afate looks a bit different from the 3D printers, it works just as well’. The only constraints are due to the size of the machine, since of course you can’t print anything that’s bigger than the printer itself.
He further stated that, each W.Afate consists of recycled parts of old computers, scanners and printers; Although the lab also use some flat screen elements because they are often obliged to purchase certain electronic components that cannot be obtained through recycling , like the circuit board, for instance.
At WoeLab, the group believes in the ethics of technological democracy and wants to break out elitism and innovation within the masses. African economies are more than 80% informal, so it is a concept that is well suited to the continent.
In regards to the invention of the 3D printer, W.afate, the group received the Global Fab Awards in Barcelona, which rewarded the best project ever released from a fablab in the past ten years, amongst others.
Many printers have been set up in fablabs, showrooms, and start-up offices abroad. In Togo, most machines are used by the social organisations WoeLab cooperates with.
The lab insists this is its very modest attempt to solve the problems that arise in our closest environment.