In an ambitious plan, a Togolese designer who created a 3D printer from e-waste dreams that one day his machines might help colonize Mars.
The West African nation of Togo, like other nations in the region, has become a place where e-waste from Europe and US is dumped. In most instances, this e-waste is processed by locals who tear down discarded electronics to their core components in the hopes of turning the waste to profit. However, in a complete rethinking of this system, Afate, a Togolese designer, has decide to begin up-cycling rather than recycling the West’s e-waste.
Based off the design of the Mendel 3D Printer that was purchased for Togo’s first hackerspace, WoeLab, the aptly named W.AFATE (WoeLab & Afate) 3D printer has ambitions of being a 3D printer that is proudly “Made in Africa”.
After using the Mendel 3D printer at WoeLab, Afate realized that nearly all of the components he would need to create another 3D printer were lying around in the vast e-waste dumps in his city. After a dedicated search, Afate and his team assembled all of the parts that they needed to create a 3D printer’s mechanical systems.
To finish the system, Afate and his groups at the WoeLab knew they would have to source programmable electronics from somewhere other than the e-waste dumps. To do this they decide to launch a crowd-funding campaign on Ulele.com.
With 33 days remaining in their campaign, the W.AFATE 3D printer project is already 24% funded.
Once they receive funding, the group will purchase a number of Arduino chips and various other electronics that can be used to build 3D printers. To further spread the impact of their idea, WoeLab is holding a summer camp where they will build a number of WAFATE printers to educate young Togolese students about 3D printing and making.
While this story would be amazing if it just ended there, the Togoloese team has ambitions that go well beyond the humble idea of making a 3D printer from scrap. In the end they’d like to see their printer help in future colonization of Mars.
Now, it’s obvious that these grand designs are pretty pie in the sky, but the W.AFATE designers might be a lot closer to achieving their goal than many think! In a collaboration between the group and FacLab France for NASA’s Space APP Challenge, the joint team has created a proposal to bring e-waste to the red planet’s surface where it can be reassembled into machines that will build Martian infrastructure.
Of the numerous projects that were proposed to NASA, the “WAFTE to Mars” project was selected as one of the 133 nominated entries. NASA is set to announce the winners of the APP Challenge on the 22nd of May, and of all the projects, I know which one I’m pulling for.
Watch a video explaining the groups project:
Images courtesy of W.AFATE