CRPM – Building Additive Manufacturing ecosystems in Botswana

The Central University’s Centre for Rapid Prototyping and Manufacturing (CRPM), once more managed to break more ground in their attempt to transfer Additive Manufacturing (also known as 3D printing) knowledge and skills, to industry and the community.

Through the Southern African Innovation Support (SAIS) initiative, funded from Finland through its Project Management office in Windhoek, Namibia a successful bid was made under the SAIS2 programme, to establish an Additive Manufacturing (AM) Ecosystem in Botswana, in collaboration with the University of Botswana (UB) and the Botswana Institute for Technology Research and Innovation (BITRI).

Before starting with the AM hardware and its applications to service Botswana’s needs, a comprehensive needs assessment was done, which also included a review of the current Innovation Ecosystem, followed by a review of the Botswana National System of Innovation, and because of AM’s immense impact on health treatment, an overview was done on Botswana’s health system and how AM could impact on that. In addition, a comprehensive gap analysis was done, and led to various training initiatives, presented in Botswana and at CRPM in Bloemfontein.

In parallel, some training initiatives started, focussing on AM and AM applications training, Design for AM (DfAM), a short course on Quality Management Systems necessary for AM and more specifically medical AM applications, in addition to AM skills development for clinicians. A public launch was also hosted in Gaborone, in order to bring government, private and public institutions and importantly, industry and the medical fraternity on board.

The project progressed very well, until COVID brought travel between South Africa and Botswana to a halt, and now known as part the new norm, all project related activities had to continue in a virtual environment. This did not pose a major problem to the project, as a significant part of the Design and AM process is based on software use, and DfAM in a medical environment starts with CT or MRI scans, to identify the patient-specific needs that will drive the manufactured solution, surgery guides (drilling and cutting guides), to lead to optimum surgical outcomes in the shortest possible time span.

Typically, surgeons are prepared for using the custom-designed and AM-produced implants by Prof Cules Van den Heever, CRPM’s Clinical Advisor, through direct involvement. Under COVID, this had to be done virtually to a team of clinicians, surgeons, engineers and designers involved in the SAIS project in Botswana.

The implants, surgery guides and representative reproduction of the patient’s skeleton was produced by means of AM and sent to Botswana, with a follow-up virtual preparation. The accuracy and efficacy of the implants produced led to a successful surgery in Botswana, and a successful outcome for the SAIS project.

The image below shows the skeleton and implants produced, using a “wax-up” procedure on the reproduction of the skeleton.

The project reached its objective, as available infrastructure in Botswana was brought together as an ecosystem (including support with identification, acquisition and commissioning of industrial grade AM equipment, advice on support equipment, preparation for commissioning and further, leading to advanced outcomes with significant impact).

A supplementary objective is to use the success achieved in Botswana to advance AM in Sub-Saharan Africa and beyond, leading to hundreds of millions of people more that can benefit across Africa, other than only South Africa.

For further details contact Johan Els:, Dr Gerrie Booysen:, Prof Cules van den Heever:, Prof DJ de Beer:, Prof Richie Moalosi: or Shorn Molokwane: