3D Printing – Are Kenyans ready?

3D printing, a term more heard than understood, is finally making baby steps in Kenya. The question is what is 3D (three-dimensional) printing? Simply put, it’s the process of creating a three-dimensional solid object from a digital model.

A good portion of our Kenyan folk has never heard, let alone see a 3D printer. Reasons for this? Well, 3D printers have made a fairly recent penetration in the Kenyan scene. The other reason is that they have been mainly used in manufacturing industries and research institutions.  Cost is also another issue. With starting price tags of about Sh.100,000 (from 3dnano), it’s not hard to see why an individual like me would prefer settling my HELB loan kwanza before thinking about one of these beauties.

Let’s pump in a little more useful knowledge.

How does a 3D printer work?

The following steps are typical:

  1. Start by making a virtual model using a Computer Aided Design (CAD) program. The CAD file is set at 3D modeling to create a new object
  2. A 3D scanner can also be used to copy an existing object hence making the digital copy of the object. Different scanners use different technologies are used to create a model e.g. laser triangulation, structured light including others
  3. Printing of the design is done

Some of the current technologies in 3d printing include:

  • Material extrusion

This is whereby hot thermoplastic or some other semi-liquid material is deposited and hardens immediately after deposition from nozzle controlled by a computer aided manufacturing software (CAM). The most commonly used technology is the FDM.

  • Material jetting

This is a technology where the objects are created using a light source to solidify a liquid photopolymer.

So where can we come across 3d printers in our daily lives?

  1. Manufacturing industries where parts of machines are to be fabricated quickly
  2. Hospitals where organs are printed and coated with live tissue, implants and prosthetics
  3. Personal printing for some people who own these printers to print simple objects e.g. toys or even utensils for every meal! (lazy bastards)

Check out this West African guy who made his 3D printer from reusing e-waste. http://www.treehugger.com/gadgets/african-inventor-makes-3d-printer-e-waste-video.html

In Kenya, the 3D printer made a debut in 2012 at the Nairobi FabLab (University of Nairobi). The growth of 3D printers since then has not been very impressive with UoN being the only university with a 3D printer. Are the rest of the technical universities still staring at the fireplaces left by the Homo erectus?!

Anyway, it’s about time we as a young generation extend our curiosities past the latest episode of Teen Wolf and actually take an interest in these wonderful machines. Who knows, maybe someday we can print custom-made hip extensions (the insecure ladies can thank me later) or a set of dentures for our older generation.

So what kind of future do you see for the 3D printing scene in Kenya?

Warren

 

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GMO in Kenya – Hope or Curse?

It is defined as organisms whose genomes are usually altered by techniques of genetic engineering such that one or two genes that were not originally present in the organism are found. The most widely considered GMO is genetically modified food.

GMO effects to humans and the environment?

The potentially harmful GMOs that have are considered are primarily food supply. The major harmful effects that are feared to be caused by GMO are discussed below as:

1.Food Allergy Effects

Allergic reactions in humans occur when a normally harmless protein enters the body and stimulates an allergic reaction. Though the suspected allergy causing proteins on detection, caused the producing companies to shut down the production.

2.Decreased nutritional value

GM food is feared to have less nutritional value than their original version. This is through having less nutritional value or the food being indigestible to humans. An example shows that phytoestrogen is a compound produced by in soybeans be in low levels in a strain of genetically modified soybeans (Bakshi, 2003)

 3.Increased toxins

Plants generally produce substances that are considered toxic to humans. Inserting a gene into a plant could cause the plants to produce toxins that are at a higher level than it originally did which could affect humans.

Find out more on the effects of GMO at http://enhs.umn.edu/current/5103/gm/harmful.html

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The major advantages of GMO plants to Kenyans:

 a. Pest resistant crops

Some GMO foods have been modified to be pest resistant. This will ensure less use of pesticides and hence will help in the process of environmental conservation by avoiding pollution, green-house emissions and soil erosion

 b. Highly nutritious foods

Some GMO foods have been modified to be more nutritious in terms of the mineral or vitamin content. Embracing this biotechnology would help us battle malnutrition in the developing world hence it is a good thing.

c.Temperature resistant crops

Given areas such as Wajir that are really dry, using genetically modified plants that can grow in these areas will enable higher food yields and the thus increase food security in the country.

It is very sad to see over 19000 children die annually because of malnutrition. It is sad indeed.

As Chemical engineers continue to work with the bio-technologists to develop more advanced techniques to transfer genetic material from one organism to another, genetic modification of foods is the safest way to increase food production as a country and globally. This will also help with reducing crop losses due to diseases and nutritional content of food is higher.

 

 

 

 

Nuclear Energy in Kenya

Kenya and nuclear energy have never really fell in the same line, not until now at least. With the ever-growing population, there is a subsequent rise in the demand for respective products and services. This translates to increased production and establishment of more service delivery institutions. Energy is the backbone of any running economy and for Kenya the story is no different. The economy has come of age to incorporate nuclear energy.

Some of the key challenges facing development in Kenya include:

  • High cost of production
  • Unemployment and high dependence ratios (especially the youthful population)

The introduction of nuclear energy in Kenya will be a significant step towards addressing these issues. Already the Kenya Nuclear Energy Board (KNEB) has been set up in 2012 to steer a master-plan for the realization of a 4GW portfolio from the nuclear plants set up in Kenya by 2030 in line with the Vision 2030. The first phase of the master-plan is to set up a 1GW nuclear plant between 2017 and 2022. Read more on the KNEB and its current progress here

Listen to and download (free) the radio session we had. Follow this link

So what would be the impact of nuclear energy in Africa, and more specifically in the Kenyan reality?

  1. Economically

 Manufacturers would be the direct beneficiaries of lower cost of electricity. This would mean that the cost of production goes down, cost of goods decreases and hence the common mwananchi, would have higher spending power.It would also mean that we would be able to produce for export at competitive prices.

  1. Socially

More social amenities (health, education institutions) will be able to accommodate high end machinery for research or commercial purposes.The Kenyan household would also be able to afford more products and services because of decreased cost of electricity.

  1. Politically

The environment will be less strained because of decreased reliance biomass for energy production.

The Government will have a higher chance of promoting development to utilize the available electricity. This will definitely count towards propelling Kenya to achieve middle income status.

It goes without doubt that nuclear energy can spell doom if not handled in the appropriate manner. The Kenyan Government has already signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with China’s CGN (China General nuclear) for the construction of Kenya’s first nuclear plant based on the Hualong 1 design.  Get the story here.

Kenyans might not be ready to run these plants on their own yet, but the Government has already sponsored over 10 Kenyan students to study nuclear power engineering in South Korea. Read about that here.

Poverty in Africa coupled with low living standards has never seen a better chance at redemption. Nuclear energy, a catalyst of many economic transformation, is closer than ever to becoming common talk in African countries. Therefore it is our responsibility to manage and exploit the huge benefits that will come with this proven form of clean energy.

Lest we forget some of the epic nuclear disasters that have shaken our economy and humanity at best:

  1. Chernobyl disaster – Ukraine (1986)
  2. Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster – Japan (2011)
  3. Three Mile Island Accident – USA (1979)
  4. Lucens Reactor – Switzerland (1969)

Do you think nuclear energy is what Kenya needs?

Green Innovation

Hey guys!

So, our latest session on Tech Today Radio show was about green energy innovation. The hosts were Euphie, Mildred,Warren, Roba and the guest, to discuss more on the topic, Oscar Wanga.

Listen and download the session here https://soundcloud.com/techtoday-radio/green

What is green innovation?

I found Green innovation to be ‘the creation or implementation of new or significantly improved products (that is goods and services), processes, marketing methods, organizational structures and institutional arrangements which-with or without intent-lead to environmental improvements compared to relevant alternatives’-(OECD,2009)  The main focus of this topic was on the efforts made by the Governement of Kenya through the creation of NETFUND.

What is NETFUND?

It is the National Environment Trust Fund. It is an organization that aims at empowering Kenyans to sustainably manage the environment. This organization launched the NETFUND GIA (NETFUND Green Innovation Award) supported by the Swedish Embassy in Nairobi.

To encourage innovation in Kenya, especially amongst the youth, NETFUND GIA welcomes new ideas and initiatives that will help improve the environment. It is carried out in all counties countrywide. The award provides a platform for the ideas and innovations focusing on two major areas: water and energy management. This is to try and curb the effects of climate change and stimulate growth of business opportunities in Kenya.

The NETFUND GIA will be able to offer cash prizes of about 5-0.25 Million KES for the best projects for funding to enable implementation of the projects. ‘This will enable the intelligence and knowledge of young minds, all over the country, to be put to great use.

Why register?

  • They provide a viable entrepreneurial innovation platform. The competitive applicants selected would be able to obtain technical and business support from NETFUND.
  • They provide a seed funding and investment platforms. The selected competitive applicants will be able to present their projects and obtain investment platforms to link their businesses to potentially interested investors.

 

Who should apply?

All students, regardless of whichever course they take, should be able to apply for this green innovation project. This is as long as you have the drive to make the environment better tomorrow and for the generations to come. So to the daring innovators follow the link!

Are there activities or projects to promote the NETFUND policies in Moi University?

The School of Engineering in Moi University holds annual expositions in the fields of engineering and technology. Students are usually at the forefront of these events, showcasing their projects which cover many sectors of the economy including waste management and energy conservation. Surely these are some of the positive steps towards exploiting youth opportunities in Kenya: business and sustainability.

 

How are countries currently pursuing green innovation?

Iceland as a country is on the fore-front of the green innovation as country primarily uses geothermal power. There is little to no consumption of fossil fuels that may end up polluting the environment. This is possible due to the presence of a lot of geothermal vents in the land. All the steam produced from the vents is used to heat up water and run turbines producing electricity. This is very environmentally friendly. Way to go!

 

Technology in Kenya is growing expontially and this means the related waste (e-waste) follows suit. Nakumatt, UNEP and HP have the ‘recycle today for a better tomorrow’ initiative that was mainly for E-waste (electronic waste e.g phones, fridges, cassette players etc.) since 2014 to help consumers better recycle products they no longer need.

Kenya as a country has currently introduced the star rating system for the electronic appliances we use where the stars are used to indicate the efficiency of the electronic appliance. This works in the sense that one star represents the least efficient appliance while five stars represent the most efficient appliance. Interesting

I like this initiative in the sense that:

  • It’s easy to understand. Whether literate or not, one would be able to understand use of these symbols to indicate efficiency instead of having to look at the power rating info.
  • Makes you ‘environmental conservation’ conscious. The fact that you have to consider the efficiency rating on a machine will make you think of conserving the environment as you go about your day to day activities. See, I think it will work.

 

The problem with people trying to conserve the environment is we are always hoping someone else will do it. Take something as simple as litter. Why do you drop it on the ground thinking someone else will pick the litter up? Or is it just because there is litter all over you can’t dispose it the proper way? So how exactly are you trying to make our environment better as you go by your day to day life? Think. Act now.

Later.

Sly