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How a Team in Nigeria Designed a 3D Printable Solution that Could Affect Over 622 Million People

On 28 May 2019, London based 3D printable model sharing community, MyMiniFactory announced the winners to the 45 day 3D design competition for the Hope3D organization in partnership with Snapmaker. The competition called for talented 3D designers to solve one of the UN Sustainable Development Initiatives using 3D printing as part of the solution. The competition drew in entries ranging from insect houses to prosthetic hands to screwless modular assemblable Robotic System cars (SMARS cars). Designers from all around the world opted to contribute to solving the world’s most pressing problems and share their innovations, in hopes of creating solutions for the many who lack access or resources in their own regions.

From hundreds of entries, three winners were selected for their creativity, innovation and ability to solve significant problems for civilians around the globe. Alex Rodriguez, a practicing lawyer from Orlando, Florida designed the Modular Hydroponic Garden/Farm System to allow anyone in the world with access to a 3D printer to begin farming homegrown food with a minimal initial investment. His system which won third place, stands to contribute to Goal 15 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Life on Land, to promote fair and equitable sharing of resources. Similar systems, currently, aren’t accessible or require large investments to get started, typically limiting their use to corporate entities. His 3D printable system is ideal for an individual or family who are looking for solutions for natural agriculture or to wanting to start a small business.

When asked about his motivations, Rodriguez said, “I’m a lawyer by trade. Some time ago I felt ‘stuck,’ lost, and insignificant. I had a bit of an existential crisis. Yes, I was making money, but…what’s the point? Is my life just going to be a continuous stream of solving other people’s problems? I felt a deep desire to do something bigger. A desire to leave a large, lasting, positive impact on the world. This deep desire mixed with some influences from Henry David Theroux, Jaques Fresco, Justice Scalia, Elon Musk, among others, led me to where I am today with this project.” Rodriguez’s Hydroponic Garden/Farm has already been downloaded and 3D printed by individuals around the world, even making its way to a home in Cambodia. The model is available to download for free on MyMiniFactory.

Kevin Thomas, a management engineering student from Switzerland took home 2nd prize for his Screwless Modular Assemblable Robotic System (SMARS) car. SMARS tackles the fourth UN Sustainability Goal: quality education, helping to prepare youth and adults with skills for future employment or entrepreneurship. The robotics system is optimized for 3D printing, needing little support and no screws to be built. Thomas created the model to offer a simple and accessible solution for beginner robotics enthusiasts to learn to program as well as CAD software.

Thomas mentioned that as a child he longed for a similar solution to learn from, which wasn’t readily available at the time. His objective with the SMARS car was to help students, and other learners with limited access and resources, benefit from a low-cost solution that’s components are found almost anywhere. His hope is to see everyone able to learn robotics and STEM subjects with equal opportunity. The 3D printable model is available to download at no cost on MyMiniFactory.

The first prize winner of the Snapmaker 3-in-1 3D printer is Okpamen Jimklien Obasogie, a social entrepreneur and Mechanical Engineering student from Landmark University, Nigeria. Obasogie and his team of four aimed to build an affordable solution that converts heat to clean electricity, supporting the 7th UN Sustainability Goal of Affordable and Clean Energy. They developed the Ina Lite: a lightweight, portable, thermoelectric generator solution for off the grid use.

About 622.6 million Africans lack access to electricity, 80 million of those are Nigerians. This means a lack of clean energy for lighting in homes and for local food merchants. By using the principle operations of the Seebeck Effect, Obasogie and his team designed their solution using an interdisciplinary synergy approach of mechanical and electrical systems. The team has also previously presented at the CommonWealth Centre, Hult Prize International and Four Points by Sheraton. Their work has been recognized and awarded in Lagos, Nigeria; Johannesburg, South Africa and Berlin, Germany.

The Ina Lite, (the word “Ina” is a Yoruba word meaning “light” or “fire”) can convert heat from domestic activities like cooking, to electricity using the thermoelectric generator. The energy is then channeled to a USB port producing 10-15 Watts of electricity for charging mobile phones and LED lights. “Regardless of this lack of power supply, local households and street food vendors generate heat from domestic activities like cooking, lighting and keeping warm using fuels like charcoal, firewood, kerosene and the likes unaware that heat could be converted to electricity” notes Obasogie.

Aside from being designed for sustainability and producing clean electricity in a clean and affordable way; the Ina Lite reduces the waste of energy lost to heat and is an alternative to kerosene lamps, meaning its usage can reduce the carbon footprint of families who’ve previously depended on it for lighting. The Ina Lite was sketched, modeled, rendered and prototyped using Fusion 360 and is available to download completely free from MyMiniFactory. “I am so grateful to be announced the winner by MyMiniFactory and Hope3D. The Snapmaker 3-in-1 3D printer will go a long way to support our passion project.”

Sam Suchin, the founder of Hope3D was impressed with the results that came through MyMiniFactory, “There are some great entries in the competition that tackle a variety of global challenges faced today. I could envision each project as a successful initiative on Hope3D, and I look forward to collaborating with some of the contestants. The winning entries identified a significant issue and produced solutions towards a sustainable future. I’m very excited to continue developing Hope3D with such an amazing community.”

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