TED Conversations

Brendan Dunphy

Chief Innovation Officer, Frost & Sullivan Ltd


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What potential does 3D printing have for developing economies?

Can 3D printing combined with mobile internet access enable developing economies in Africa and elsewhere to create a new manufacturing model that overcomes their deficit in traditional manufacturing infrastructure (roads, transportation, logistics, finance etc.) and constrained development to-date?

Could we be on the verge of a lower cost and way more flexible model ideally suited to under-developed regions where on-site and one-off manufacturing provides scarce spare parts for products manufactured elsewhere and a new generation of local products specifically designed for local needs?


Closing Statement from Brendan Dunphy

I would conclude that there is certainly scope for 3D printing & manufacturing to help fill the local manufacturing hole in many developing markets in Africa and elsewhere but its no panacea. The 'maker movement' has taken root in South Africa, Nigeria and elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa so it will be interesting to see how these pioneers develop. There is no shortgae of VC funds seeking opportunities and all it will take is a major local success for the potential to take shape and the media to notice. Some policy makers in Nigeria are keen to build a 'traditional' manufacturing base (as they have seen succesful Asian economies do) and believe this is an essential stepping stone to a brighter economic future. This may be true but I still wonder whether new 'bottom-up' models enabled by 3D printing may provide a complimentary, or even alternative, route to a manufacturing economy "Made in Africa"?

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    May 14 2013: Agreed Brian, it would help the sustainability agenda. I like the idea of printing spare parts locally as needed and of course that has a whole different meaning and much greater impact in under-developed economies.

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