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An Interview with Elizabeth Rogers and Onesmo Kenneth, Kuunda 3D

The topic of 3D printing has long interested us at Castle Ink, even to the point that we now stock 3D printer filament and are an authorized reseller of the Micro3D printer. At any rate, we always seek to provide broad coverage of the entire printing spectrum from traditional 2D printing all the way to 3D. To that end, we bring you the next segment in our Expert Interview Series. In yet another great example of how 3D printing can change a community, we had the privilege of speaking with Elizabeth Rogers and Onesmo Kenneth who chose to co-found Kuunda 3D in Tanzania and began operations just this past November. Their mission is simple and direct: "Kuunda 3D creates content and programs to empower the next and current generations of entrepreneurs to create amazing solutions to local and global problems. "

The interview was conducted via email and our questions with their answers appear below:

1) When was Kuunda founded and why? Who are the key employees?
Elizabeth: Kuunda 3D was conceived in the spring of 2015 and we started operations in Tanzania in November 2015. Elizabeth Rogers is a co-founder and Director of Operations and Onesmo Kenneth is Director of Business Development and also a co-founder. Our Technical Manager is Evans Godwin.

2) Is there any significance or story behind the name "Kuunda"

Onesmo: The word "Kuunda" is a Swahili word that roughly translates to assemble, to create or to make. We aim at making young Tanzanian makers and creators through 3D modelling and printing..

 

3) What is your academic background and how has that helped your shift into 3D printing?
Elizabeth: I have an academic background in the sciences (biochemistry and aerospace) as well as business (MBA from Rotterdam School of Management). My scientific training and experience has helped me throughout my career to look analytically at a situation or object and find possible solutions. This is useful for 3D printing as there can be many things that can go wrong and we need a scientific approach to solve them. On the other hand, here in Tanzania lots of things do not go as expected so I've really had to learn to just roll with the punches! My MBA has significantly helped in my shift into being an entrepreneur and starting a business in one of the most difficult countries in the world to do business.

Onesmo: I have a BA in philosophy and human sciences and an MA in Research and Policy Analysis. In my MA classes I also did the MBA courses as my secondary courses. Throughout my development work I have enjoyed creating new ideas that translate into improving livelihoods, and the aspect of creating a new business that will make youth more entrepreneurial is one of my key motivational aspects for creating this business

4) How hard is it to start a 3D printing movement where you are in Africa, given the limits with access to technology and in some places reliable internet and power sources?
Onesmo: 3D printing is a totally new phenomenon in this part of the world considering that we are still at the early stages the technological growth curve. Accessing adequate support infrastructure is the biggest challenge. There are power cuts in the middle of prints, very slow internet denying us access to online resources, no dealers in spare parts and filaments as well as no tech support services available in the continent. However, we see all these as opportunities since we try to create the market as we advance.

5) What type(s) of printers are you using currently as part of your work? What types of materials?
Elizabeth: Currently we use and sell Tinkerine (Canadian) and Ultimaker (Dutch) printers. We also have a Micro 3D printer that is useful for taking on demonstrations as it's small and light. We are expecting to soon also have a STIC Lab 3D printer that is made from electronic waste right here in Tanzania! We print with PLA, ABS and PET, depending on what's being printed and the end use. We currently have to import all of our plastic, but hope to soon use locally produced filament for some of our projects.

6) What barriers, if any, did you face as a woman getting into the 3D printing industry? What barriers, in your opinion, do the children, especially the girls, face in learning about technology where you are working?
Elizabeth: I've been lucky and faced very few barriers in getting into the 3D printing. Even though it is mostly dominated by men, I don't think it's actually due to gender barriers. Here in Tanzania it is a bit different, but even here the first person to work on 3D printing is a woman—Jacqueline Dismas. I do see the gender differences arise at the rural level where girls are expected to do chores, help around the house, and barely manage to make it to school, never mind access technology.

Onesmo: There is a tendency of introducing children to technology at the later stages of their growth, especially as teenagers and as they move towards university education. However, this is also the stage where they are under pressure to focus on career-based learning hence technologies like 3D are looked at as hobbies instead of avenues for job creation. Introducing these technologies at the earlier stages will result in more creative and entrepreneurial minds.

 

7) What are the costs to your 3D printing services, if any? Do you have a government or some type of NGO helping to subsidize costs?
Elizabeth: We do not have a set price for our 3D printing services as it depends on a number of factors. These include whether design or modelling is required, the type of plastic or material printed, whether support material is needed, the duration of the print and whether the final print requires any after-print processing such as sanding or painting. We therefore provide quotes for our services to our customers for each print. We do not have any organization subsidizing any costs.

8) What are some of the neatest objects you have seen people create thus far after they have been taught to work with the technology?
(This is still so new that we haven't yet reached the stage of teaching modeling and design creation. So, so far we've seen people print architectural models, product prototypes, etc. The kids we've taught are very keen on creating mechanical toys, mobile phone cases, jewellery and even doll houses!)

9) What have been some of the most rewarding aspects of your work so far?
Elizabeth: For me, it has been absolutely amazing to show this to students. Many have heard of 3D printing, but would likely not be able to see and touch a 3D printer had we not visited their schools. I am so excited to start teaching 3D design to the children this spring to see what they create and what problems they will solve.

Onesmo: The most rewarding aspect for me is the appreciation from the market despite the humble beginning. We are receiving orders from East Africa and the served clients confirm that the products meet their expectations. It shows me that we can advance this market for the future 3D experts that we are currently training.

10) Where do you see Kunnda3D in the next 3-5 years? What are you hoping to accomplish that you haven't already?
Onesmo: In the next 5 years, I hope to see small 3D design and printing shops in different parts of the countries, offering on-demand services for different creative sectors. This would especially be the artisans that are spread all over Africa, thanks to our trainings and technical support.




About Kuunda 3D
Kuunda 3D creates content and programs to empower the next and current generations of entrepreneurs to create amazing solutions to local and global problems.

We do this this through:
1.Teaching about and demonstrating 3D printing technology.
2.Getting technology into more hands by selling printers and filament.
3.Printing items for those who just need that one thing now.

We are former teachers, consultants, scientists and entrepreneurs who have a strong passion for innovation and education and getting technology into the hands of those who may not otherwise access it.