Towards establishing mini fabrication lab at Buni hub.

“What I like about Buni is the fact that the space equips us with skills that you can’t get from any other place in Tanzania” Michael Kimollo, active member of Buni maker community and graduate of Buni internship programme.

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3D printer at Buni hub.

Six months ago, group of 20 to 30 Buni members developed interest on forming a maker community at the hub called Make Fellows. The motivation came from the existing few individuals, who were working with the current senior mentor of the community Victor Augustine on their university final year projects. When the lady from Romania, Stefania Druga visited Buni and pitch about her project called Afrimakers, we felt there was a need to start and develop our own maker community in Dar es Salaam.

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Interns working on the water level system project.

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Testing the water level system prototype. The system can send SMS notifications to the users.

From that time number of makers meet-ups have been organized at Buni hub mostly in Saturdays. The community is made up of individuals who are dedicated towards making different innovative electronics prototype. From the sessions people learn the basics of electronics up to working with micro-controllers and making circuit boards. The community has been using Arduino and other technologies on creating and developing new prototypes, the recent projects being FM transmitters and liquid level control systems using sensors. The liquid level control system was used by the students in Buni internship programme to develop water level system for water dams and wells. The sensors also can be used to check the amount of humidity in the soil and it can be incorporated in digital irrigation systems. The project is already developed by the other mentor of the maker’s community, Jacqueline Dismas.

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Matthew assembling the 3D printer at Buni hub.

Having the community of makers at the hub has created a lot of opportunities to the hub users and individuals looking for maker communities in Tanzania. 3 months ago 3D printing technology pioneer, Matthew Rodge visited the hub and meet with the local pioneers of making things. Matthew met with the director general of COSTECH,
Dr. Hassan Mshinda and explained the concept of 3D printing to him and its potential for rapid prototyping especially for developing countries.  Having community of individuals interested and passionate in making things, it was very easy to suggest to them the concept of 3D printing and the potential of the technology.

“3D printing will revolutionize the manufacturing industry especially in developing countries” Dr. Hassan Mshinda.

The maker community at the hub were offered free 3D assembling and operation training by Matthew pioneer from the organization called techfortrade. Matthew left the hub with assembled 3D printer that to be used by the hub. The printer is currently operational and is being used at the hub.

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Jacqueline facilitating 3D printing training session.

From the successes of the maker community and adoption of 3D printing technology by hub mentors, Dr. Hassan Mshinda held a meeting with all the stakeholders and suggested formation of Mini FabLab (fabrication laboratory) at the hub with more focus on 3D printing technologies. The first project was assembling an e-waste 3D printer from the hub and second project being, researching for possibilities of recycling the plastic bottles into 3D printing filaments. Both of the projects are currently on progress. Matthew has been successful on implementing both of the projects in other developing countries and through the support of local makers, he is looking to achieve the same in Tanzania. The scope of the project is to have a working prototype of an e-waste 3D printer and recycled plastic filaments before rolling them out through vocational training institutions or other local production industries.

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Bonguino board made by Victor Augustine, senior mentor of the community.

The first step towards achieving the aim, COSTECH has decided to establish a mini FabLab inside Buni hub for the maker community to be able to work with the tools for rapid prototyping and bringing their technical ideas into life. Currently the community has two mentors Victor Augustine and Jacqueline Dismas, the second being the care taker of the 3D printer and the maker community. As part of the first step the hub is planning to focus more on electronics maker community before moving forward to other sides of making things.

The community mentor, Jacqueline visited the University of Nairobi fabrication lab. The about to be formed FabLab will be working closely with the university’s FabLab and already the mini FabLab is in the process of joining the global FabLab network.
The journey continues, by early next year we believe the the first FabLab will be opened in Dar es Salaam inside Buni hub.

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