The core of the MedTech Kijenzi project is the development, distribution, and adaptation of 3D printing technology to solve problems faced by rural clinics in Kenya.
So what is 3D printing, what can it do, and how is the MK project using this technology to help?
At the most basic level, 3D printing is a form of additive manufacturing- the process of adding material to create a product. The printers used by MK take computer-generated 3D models and, with a series of programs, translate the models into a form readable by the printer. With this formatted file, the printer can then use fused deposition modelling (laying down many thin layers of material, in this case plastic filament) to actualize the model. With this process, a huge variety of products can be generated, printed in many materials, and from infinite designs.
MedTech Kijenzi’s printers use two types of filament for our prints: versatile PLA plastic, and extremely durable nylon filament. PLA is a very common variety of plastic, and compatible material can be recycled into new filament. In the future, MK looks to expand its repertoire of materials to include ABS and others.
With the needs of the clientele served by this project, MK has worked toward the development of a durable, adaptable, and accessible printer. The Kijenzi printer has been custom-built to provide a wide array of aptitudes suited to producing specialty medical parts in an unpredictable environment. Some of these modifications include a collapsible frame, heated bed, and back-up power supply, all of which make it uniquely suited to the demands of the remote rural medical facilities in which it will operate.
The products that the Kijenzi printer can create are remarkably diverse, ranging from simple knobs and brackets needed for maintaining appliances and machinery to unique application medical items. These more specialized parts include frames for glasses, tweezers, wrist braces, ankle supports, and countless more. By using 3D printing, the need to order and ship such simple yet specific items is greatly lessened: With the right file and a printer, the wait time for a much-needed part can be reduced from a few weeks to just a few hours.
MedTech Kijenzi is using this cutting-edge technology to allow remote medical facilities to create the parts they need, reliably and at a reasonable cost. 3D printing can allow individuals with minimal training access to independent production of specialty equipment, a level of autonomy and versatility that no other manufacturing method can match.