Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: Initiatives in South Africa, Morocco, Algeria, Nigeria, Kenya, Egypt and Tanzania

The number of 3D printing purchases in Africa increased by 23% in 2017, and is expected to continue to grow rapidly.  Increasing competitiveness by transitioning to high-value manufacturing is one of the goals some African economies are pursuing by attracting and developing capabilities in 3D printing technology.

The total number of 3D printing machines in South Africa increased from 268 in 2011 to 3,500 by the end of 2015. South Africa hosts 49 businesses providing services in the industry, including consulting and design service providers, material suppliers, technology suppliers and 3D printers. Jewelry, tooling and prototyping are the main applications, but many sectors are included in the government strategy: aerospace and military, medical and dental, traditional manufacturing (tooling, casting, refurbishment), automotive and materials development (titanium), among others.

Aeroswift, a collaboration between aviation manufacturing solutions provider Aerosud and the South African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, aims to build the world’s largest and fastest additive manufacturing system to 3D print titanium aircraft parts from powder.

South Africa has a number of additive manufacturing research and development centers at various universities and institutes. The Central University of Technology’s Centre for Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing (CRPM) is heavily involved with the medical industry. The Vaal University of Technology has an important additive manufacturing center looking at tooling applications, shoe manufacturing and a number of other applications. Stellenbosch University is also pursuing a number of metal additive manufacturing technologies.

Elsewhere in Africa, with its industrial acceleration plan, Morocco attracted investment from the Thales Group, which identified this location for its global center for 3D printing and inaugurated its Industrial Competence Centre to develop and print complex metal parts for the aerospace sector.

General Electric, through its GE Garage program, opened permanent “garages” in Algeria and Nigeria to provide skills training programs in advanced manufacturing technologies and support local entrepreneurship and innovation. The garage in Lagos has already delivered Elephab, a technology entrepreneurship initiative to locally prototype and 3D print replacement parts for various industries, which has already received attention (and funding) from a U.S.-based venture capital fund.

In Togo, an inventor created the first 3D printer made entirely from recycled electronic waste, with the purpose of printing small objects like medical prostheses. In Kenya, the African Centre for Technology Studies and Kenyatta University are partnering to create a center of excellence in 3D printing. Finally, Egypt, Tanzania and other countries are observing growing interest in this technology, with their most brilliant minds exploring its applications in a way that, if well-coordinated and backed, could significantly boost the competitiveness of those countries’ industrial sector.