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3D Printing has been flourishing more and more in the United States and much of Europe, as people realize all of the incredible things that can be created on these increasingly affordable machines. In Africa, however, it hasn’t been quite as quick to catch on. Having said this, one man, named Peter van der Walt has set out to change this fact.

vanderwalt2Peter van der Walt, is the owner of a company called OpenHardware, which makes and sells different 3D printers (RepRaps), CNC machines, spare parts, and other electronics. They are also the only organization in South Africa that promotes opensource hardware.

After selling RepRap 3D printers such as Printrbots, Ecksbots, Prusa Airs, and Morgans for a couple years, van der Walt decided that it was time for a change. He decided to utilize some other technologies that were at his disposal and create a printer that could be more affordable and more feasibly made.

“Primarily in South Africa we have cost issues. A set of stainless threaded rods for a Prusa-style frame runs upwards of $25, and a set of printed parts around $50 – whereas a lasercut steel frame and cnc bending plus powdercoating (through economics of scale) works out cheaper,” van der Walt tells 3DPrint.com. “That and you get a frame thats rock solid, perfectly square in all directions, and easily reproducible in small and large scale.”

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So, van der Walt and his team decided to come up with a design for a 3D printer, which would be both well made, and affordable.  By utilizing sheets of metal, CNC machines and a laser cutter, they created a 3D printer that is extremely solid, while finding a solution to the cost issues of building traditional RepRaps. After some tinkering around, they came up with not one, but three separate 3D printers. They are all the same design, but different sizes. The 100x100x100mm build volume (actually slightly larger) version, which is referred to as the ‘Babybot’, although it has yet to be officially named, will be priced at under ZAR5000 (approximately $500). The mid-sized version which will feature a build volume of 200x200x200mm will be priced at ZAR7250 (~$725). The largest version will be 200x200x300mm, and priced at ZAR9000 (~$900).

vanderwalt1As for some of the specs on these new printers, van der Walt tells us that they will print with layer heights between 0.1mm and 0.3mm, with speeds of approximately 80mm/s. As for resolution, we are told that they will be similar to that of the ‘run of the mill FDM machine’.

van der Walt plans to begin taking pre-orders for these printers, via his website, sometime this month. He will also be shipping demo units to other retailers in South Africa, such as Communica, and the hackerspace at the University of Pretoria.  These retailers are also expected to start selling the printers shortly.

While van der Walt plans to initially sell these printers in South Africa, he tells us that if there is a demand, he will consider finding partners in the US and UK as well.

What do you think, would you consider purchasing one of these extremely sturdy looking 3D printers for around $500? Discuss in the South African 3D printer thread on 3DPB.com.

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