First Intro to 3D Printing Workshop Recap

Our first ReFab Dar workshop was held on the 6th of February. The workshop began at 9:30am with 27 participants in attendance. As our goal was 20 attendees, we considered this a good turnout and a show of the interest in 3D printing in Tanzania. The organizers were happy that 6 of the participants were women, another 6 were youth, and 5 were local university students. With 3 engineers and 3 entrepreneurs in attendance we could see we are attracting the right demographic mix by the interesting conversations taking place.

Half of the workshop forms stated that the participants had no previous experience with 3D printing outside of watching YouTube videos. In the post workshop forms completed by some of the participants, they reported a 95% satisfaction rate based on their expectations on the workshop’s contents. The key piece of feedback was that in the future the workshops should be more hands on with participants using the software and printers during the training to create their own prototypes. We will work this element into our future Introduction to 3D printing workshops. Jumanne, the Buni Hub Manager, opened the session at 9:30am by introducing to the participants to Buni Hub’s work and programs. His speech was short and clear to make everyone understand what Buni is and does in simple language. He finished his speech and welcomed Rahim to come and introduce the participants about Buni Fabrication Lab. Rahim’s speech described the ongoing projects in the maker’s space and many of the participants were interested right away in joining.

Crystal was then welcomed to come and talk more about Refab Dar. She introduced the Refab Dar project to the participants, described the plans to turn plastic waste into 3D filament, and encouraged people to join the maker community and consider starting their own 3D printing businesses. When she finished the introduction to Refab Dar and had answers questions, Crystal welcomed Rahim back to the podium to kickoff the training session of the workshop.

“What is a 3D printer?”, that was the first question Rahim asked the participants rhetorically. He carefully described the core concepts of 3D printing technology and what it takes to successfully start 3D printing. Just by looking at their faces, everyone seemed to be understanding the session and enjoying it. The introduction session brought them to a whole new level of 3D printing knowledge. Everyone’s pen and notebook was shaking at a very high speed making sure that they leave nothing unwritten. His session included different types of 3D printers, detailing the properties of various filaments, how the heating elements on the printer works, and a quick overview of the softwares involved in each stage.

“Sir, I have question to ask you,” a participant raised his hand and asked “Where do we get those parts to print?”. The facilitator replied ”there are two ways of getting the parts to print. One is by downloading the parts online from various sites and the second is to design them yourself by using design software such as Autocad or Google Sketchup etc”. The participant continued, “so will I be able to design any part by myself at the end of the training? ” The facilitator confirmed, “Yeah, sure by the end of this session you will understand how to design and print. We will also guide you through all the necessary requirements you need, if you want to have your own printer at home”.

The participation of the participants grew with each passing moment. The questions were coming and going just like the seasons of the year. Each and everyone was eager to know more based on his area of interest. Someone then asked “Can we print now?”. He wanted to move forward with the session and the questions seemed like a delay to him. The next session was on Google Sketchup and design.

Paul was the next facilitator leading the designing session. He briefly introduced various design software before getting to the software to be demonstrated, Google SketchUp. He asked everyone to install SketchUp in their laptops. The software was chosen as it is the easiest to learn but yet sophisticated enough to be used in extensive manufacturing and designing of 3D printed parts. Paul worked with Jakob Lindenthal hand in hand to ensure they deliver the best “lesson” to the participants. Jakob worked in a 3D fabrication laboratory in Germany before coming to Tanzania to volunteer with the fire department. He is an experienced 3D designer with the skills to design almost anything using 3D software. He assisted Paul in introducing 3D printing design concepts and principles of manufacturing at industrial level for all participants who want to make 3D printing their primary occupation.

Most participants had their own laptops, but some shared with friends so no one would be left behind in this awesome part of 3D printing. The facilitator of this session taught them how to design a table in 3D model and then printing session was next. Everyone seemed to understand well how to use google sketchup to design various parts.

Then after the designing session, the printing session was next. Since it always takes time to print various objects, participants were taught how to export their shapes ready for printing. “Sir can you use my shape” a participant requested his shape to be printed instead of any other. “Sure you can just bring it”, the facilitator replied. With a huge smile in his face a participant brought the part to be printed.

Question and answers session was next. Every participant got a chance to ask something during this session. They interacted, networked and shared knowledge between one another. Some participant wanted to buy the printers that were used for the training right away. They were directed on the best places they can get the printers and start printing.

“We have something to eat on the other side of the hall”. This was the news everyone was waiting for and the networking session that ensued was even more interactive and happy. Participants learned and shared a meal together which made the workshop fun for everyone.

“Please here is my email address, forward me every training session that is going on here at Buni”. That was the last sentence from one among the participants while walking out the door that conveyed what most participants were feeling. It felt like together we had a started a journey and they did not want to miss anything. The workshop was fun, interactive, productive, diverse, and make people understand 3D printing in a whole new perspective. Session Ended