3D printing's positive impact on the Kenyan health services

Posted on :Wednesday , 28th October 2020

The purring of machines ushers us into a well-designed lab, one of many office spaces inside the sleepy LakeHub tech incubation centre in Kisumu’s leafy suburb of Milimani. Around 18 three-dimensional printers have settled on the shelves buzzing towards additive manufacturing which is all received from a command from a laptop resting on a table.

 

Daisy Achieng informed that "a minimum of 3,000 3D printed medical units were delivered to different hospitals within the past week alone. Hospitals and health centres during this region place orders each day. Our job is to manufacture and supply, we have been delivering many 3D printed medical units across different hospitals in Kenya”

 

David Oginga, the firm engineer, reveals that within the past five months the startup — Kijenzi 3D — has churned out quite 10,000 face shields and 5,000 ear relievers within the continued war on Covid-19.

 

“We produce an option of personal protective equipment (PPE) with different designs and for physiotherapy purpose print equipment and models of body organs with 16 Prusa 3D machines and two Mechboards,  the 27-year-old biomedical engineer expounds.

 

He adds that Kijenzi 3D also uses the technology to provide parts for dialysis machines, microscope knobs, clutches, incubator latches and finger clamps, but on demand. The best part of 3D printing is that the power of customization as per the hospital needs are achieved faster with enhanced quality and production volumes.

 

To a superb extent, compared to imported equipment that are expensive and take months to be achieved by the country,  these innovation help in keeping hospital processes running once parts of essential medical equipment gets exhausted and need urgent replacement.

 

 

While most prototypes for 3D printing are placed online for free of charge of charge downloads to help innovators around the world to print solutions for Covid-19, most of them, according to Elvis Ogweno, the assembly engineer, are just general designs for medical items that are common.

 

“The stuff we discover online is mostly not what doctors appeal from us. They request for specific parts or items that have unique features and other people need to be designed from scratch,” he explains and adds that he does that using the Fusion 360 3D software.

 

 

It takes one machine 20 minutes to print a face shield, and prints a minimum of 150 pieces a day. For the 16 machines working concurrently, they meet the assembly capacity of two, 400 units with each going for Sh250.

 

The World Health Organisation recommends the wearing of face shields on top of face masks for folks that work for long hours in high concentration jobs like surgeons, nurses, dentists, lab technicians or construction workers, to remain off droplets or liquid splashes from the face.

 

When it comes to ear relievers, a single 3D printer can produce in every 35 minutes six pieces, and are sold at Sh45 each. Also called ear savers, they're placed at the mask straps on the ear to alleviate the strain caused on the ear by long use of face masks.

 

Last year after graduating from the University of Nairobi holding a bachelors in engineering Mr Mutie entered the industry of 3D printing way back in 2016 even before graduating and since then have matured in his experience to the magnitude where he was manufacturing the printers by himself.

 

The 26-year-old innovator quoted, “my ambition is to provide people with the freedom to make from what is available in their homes at a very affordable price. Within the past four years, I even have sold over 100 machines each at Sh46,000. All I would like to make one could also be a motor, liquid Display (LCD) screen for commands and thus the filaments for printing."

 

To print any object, design or prototype is first created on a computer and thus the file saved on a memory card. the cardboard is then inserted into a squeeze the 3D printer after which the machine is commanded from a little LCD screen to print the file.

 

The material used for the printing is known as a filament and is made of sentimental plastic, which is melted into a fine liquid through heat produced by the machine.

 

Continuous addition of small drops of this liquid on a board to ultimately create the required object is what makes experts call 3D printing additive manufacturing. For huge objects, they're first allowed to relax off before removing them.

 

Mr Mutie’s workshop have consignment ready for shipping to Germany for consumers who want to sample products made in Africa. 

 

“I have also supplied face shields to Greece but locally I even have delivered to the Ministry of Health and Nairobi Hospital,” says Mr Mutie, who is additionally the director of AB3D, one of the pioneer 3D printing startups in Kenya in conjunction with Kuunda 3D, which is additionally using the technology to help the country meet the demand for PPEs. He tells us that he trains school children on the thanks to use the technology because “future populations will need this technology to boost their export capacity”.

 

In March before settling with printing face shields and ear savers, industrial objects like the tails of airplanes were projects of printing undertaken by him.

 

“I wanted to help the government as my responsibility when Kenya was affected by Covid- 19, by bringing forth at a lesser cost face shields and ear relievers.” he tells us.

 

Mr Mutie’s workshop has produced quite 7,000 face shields and lots of ear savers using his four powerful 3D printers that make 50 ear relievers each in under one and a half hours. Every shield is printed within six minutes. He sells on to distributors, who supply to hospitals and health centres in Nairobi, rural areas and even crosses borders to Ethiopia, Somalia and South Sudan.

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