The technology of 3D printing is versatile and incredibly accurate when the printer itself is operated by a professional.  3D printers are becoming easier to operate and understand. This allows more people the opportunity of getting to grips with the technology and take on various projects to create fantastic objects and products.  3D printing is also not exclusive to one nation or country. It has become widely used globally in a multitude of different and ingenious ways.  Today, we are going to have a look at some of the ways in which 3D printers and 3D printing technology have impacted and revolutionized the country of South Africa.

The doctors in South Africa take great pride in regards to being high on the list when it comes to making medical firsts.  It was in the country of South Africa that the very first heart transplant took place. South Africa is where CAT scans were invented and first used successfully setting new standards in the medical world while revolutionizing health care and treatment worldwide.  It was in South Africa that the frozen needle, called the “cyrobrobe,” used in cataract surgery was invented.  When the country of South Africa is not the first to do something, they are they are very close. A few years ago, South African doctors used cutting-edge technology to help an infant that had 80% burns due to a tragic accident. This infant was one of the first patients in the world to receive skin grafts from using her own skin cell tissues.

 3D printed human skin tissue

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Recently, a team of specialist surgeons at the Kimberly Hospital, in the Eastern Cape in South Africa, became only the second team of surgeons in the world to reconstruct a patient’s face by using 3D printed Jaw implants and 3D printing technology. This pioneering surgery involving and using a 3D printer could be set to revolutionize healthcare services and become an option for the poorer people in that country.

 3D printed Jawbone

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At the moment, in South Africa, patients suffering from types of mouth cancers have little to no hope due to the astronomical fees that come with the treatments and implants that are required. The poorer people in South Africa cannot afford private medical care as there is no insurance available to fund or pay for the treatments that are needed. But with the success of using 3D printers to create an affordable jaw implant, having already been achieved, the doctors at Kimberly Hospital believe that 3D printers and their use in healthcare is the way forward in providing affordable healthcare options.

The facts are simple enough to understand. Using a 3D printer to create a replacement bone will cut the cost of buying a new one by up to 80%. This alone draws attention to the possibilities that are achievable using 3D printers in medical care. The amount of materials and money that is saved has pushed this new method of creating implants further up the option list, for not only doctors in South Africa but also around the world. The South Africans have a proven track record of success when  it comes to 3D printing and they are right to be proud about this, the success is down to a healthy investment from Government Agencies and various academic institutions.

The technology of 3D printing has also spread through the continent of Africa by providing a suitable and affordable answer to those who have been injured during civil wars and through land mine accidents.  3D printers are now being used to create custom-made prosthetics to help improve and give war victims and many of those are children, a new opportunity and a better standard of life. Like the case of Daniel, below, who had lost both his arms in a tragic war that ravaged his country. Daniel can now do simple things like wash his face, brush his teeth, catch a ball and even hold a pencil. These things simply were not possible in the past for Daniel due to his injuries and are things that most kids take for granted each and every day. Yet again, a life has been transformed by the technology of 3D printing and the quick thinking of those involved with the technology.

Daniel has been fitted with RoboHands, which has been created for the sole purpose of impacting his life and the quality of it. Daniel’s story is a success and it very quickly spread throughout the world through various outlets. Even now, the company that created the RoboHands for Daniel, has created suitable and affordable prosthetics for all those that need them.

The introduction and use of 3D printing technology into the healthcare system in South Africa means that there is now an affordable option for those in need, and on and under the poverty line that have no medical insurance. It is estimated today that there are around 3,000 people in the process of creating RoboHands for amputees all over the world and this has been made possible with 3D printing.

 Daniel with his 3D printed RoboHands

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It is not only the doctors and healthcare industry that has been affected and influenced by the 3D printer. It has also hit the mark at education levels. At Johannesburg University, students have been learning and studying the technology with some outstanding results. The students have taken on a project in which they have been able to create a $100,000 solar-powered car.  Creating a solar-powered vehicle is nothing new but in the way that these students created the car is what makes the project unique.  The car has been mainly created using 3D printed parts that use super lightweight 3D printable materials.  The car is ultra lightweight and can easily travel at speeds of up to 140 km, which is an incredible speed of nearly 87 mph. Everything from the steering wheel to the customized dashboard has been created using 3D printers.

Another area where South Africa is making progress using 3D printers is in the creation of edible foods, to be more specific, chocolate. By using the correct 3D printer, users are now able to create their very own designed chocolate lollipops and a wide range of other sweet treats. In the past, this would have been incredibly difficult due to a complicated process of creating a sturdy chocolate mold. This is the method connected with traditional chocolate manufacturing. At this time, virtually any shape and design can be created in chocolate by using a 3D printer.

A company by the name of Fouche Chocolates, who is based in Centurion in South Africa, has been successfully using 3D printers in their area of business and have been creating cake decorations and chocolates for their clients. The owner of Fouche Chocolates used his initiative and created a highly efficient 3D printer that can create 3D sculptures and delicate items that are made from various types of chocolate. Hans Fouche has built and customized every single 3D printer that is in his personal workshop. He could be likened to South Africa’s very own Willy Wonka.

On first entering Hans’ workshop, your eyes are drawn to the multiple sagging shelves dotted around his workshop walls.  It’s not the sagging that draws your eyes to the shelves, but the array of wonderful and different creations that he has placed all around on them. From racing cars to toy soldiers and trinkets alike, all of which are at different stages of creation and repair. This is a 3D printing lover’s dream. It’s in this wonderful room that Hans gains inspiration and ideas. Hans thinks with his hands and used the 3D printer to bring his creations alive.

People like Hans have spent years of dedicating their time and spending long hours and nights without sleep to understand 3D printing and its capabilities. The same opportunity that showed itself to Hans in regards to 3D printing is available to everyone.  What is astounding about 3D printing is that it is still in its early stages of evolution, yet it has evolved on from trinkets and small object creation. The technology of 3D printing is red-hot with multiple businesses and manufacturers exploring its use and how it could benefit their business going into the next generation of manufacturing.

If you did not already know there is a revolution happening in the manufacturing industry, companies are looking at ways of beating their competition by using 3D printing as a method of drawing in the crowds. You may not know what 3D printing has to do with you or your area of work. In fact, you may never even have seen a 3D printer in action. The word, 3D printer, is a buzz word in the technology world and in technology circles right now.  It has been embraced and is being looked at more seriously than ever before. Nations like South Africa are seeing tangible differences in their healthcare and manufacturing industries. It is when people can see and reap the benefits for this technology that it will be embraced further.

The technology of 3D printing is about to be elevated to levels that have never been seen or even imaginable. The exhaustive range of uses that a 3D printer has and the outstanding results that it can bring are two of the main reasons that 3D printing technology is so successful.  As the needs of men, women and children alike become greater, so does the need for a technology that can meet those needs and high demands. Step forward, 3D printing is a technology that is already meeting the demands put on it and a technology that has the potential and energy to keep up with the higher demands that will be asked of it in the future. 3D printing is a technology that will be a massive influence on the future of mankind with multiple industries including the manufacturing industry and healthcare industry plus many more being affected for the better. It’s time to embrace and explore the full potential of this world-changing life saving exciting technology powerhouse.