Crowd4Africa, 3D printers in the sun

Crowd4Africa, 3D printers in the sun

Enel has donated 360 3SUN solar panels to power the Lacor Hospital, in northern Uganda, where 3D printers will produce spare parts by recycling plastic waste. It is a project in line with the UN sustainable development targets that create shared value in the long term.


The solar panels have just arrived after two months at sea and then on lorries: from Catania to St. Mary’s Lacor Hospital in northern Uganda.

There are many ways to help Africa. The idea at the centre of the Crowd4Africa project is just as simple as it is ingenious. And it was conceived last year by a group of students and parents at Istituto Massimo, a Catholic school based in Rome, to help the Corti Foundation which funds the hospital. Bottle caps, cans and plastic containers will no longer end up in landfills, but will be recycled and transformed into spare parts and prostheses for the hospital using a pair of 3D printers. To make all this possible, a total of 360 3SUN solar panels donated by Enel have been sent from Italy and will contribute to the self-production of the power needed by the hospital to operate. Each panel can generate 130W and will power the main pump needed to draw water from the aquifer. Moreover, the panels will increase the coverage of the energy needs of the nearby facilities of Opit, Amuru and Pabbo. 100% sustainable and clean, almost at zero cost and impact.


“Over the years, Lacor Hospital has received valuable donations in kind that have allowed it to continue to deliver the best care available in Uganda to as many patients as possible at the lowest possible cost. The solar panels received from Enel to which we are extremely grateful are yet another step in this direction. They are an important building block in view of further developing a facility that is becoming increasingly self-sufficient also in terms of sustainability”
Dominique Corti, President of the Piero and Lucille Corti Onlus Foundation

The advantages are potentially huge. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 20 million people in the world need orthopaedic prostheses, but just 2 percent of them are fortunate enough to receive one. In Uganda alone, 200,000 children are waiting for a prosthesis and even replacing parts at hospitals is a challenge. The best solution is to make them on site by using 3D printers as recommended by the UN. This eliminates the costs of transport and cuts the waiting and production time and the costs.

Another reason why Enel has chosen to collaborate with the Crowd4Africa project is that it meets perfectly the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the UN and shared by our Group in view of creating “shared value”. These goals include affordable and clean energy (SDG 7), quality education (SDG 4) and good health (SDG 3), as well as decent work and inclusive, sustainable and lasting economic growth (SDG 8) based on recycling and cutting CO2 emissions (circular economy) in emerging markets.

Finally, the model can be easily replicated, as will soon be the case at the Caritas centre in Kenge, Congo, where a single doctor (Chiara Castellani from Italy) has to take care of 150,000 people.

St. Mary’s Lacor Hospital is one of the few hopes of healing for thousands of people in sub-equatorial Africa: every year, it treats 290,000 patients, of whom 80 percent are women and children. Being a non-profit facility, it delivers medical care to everyone. Those who cannot pay are treated free and the rates for those who do pay do not exceed 25 percent of the costs.

Lacor Hospital is a model also from an environmental point of view. “Waste water treatment, toxic hospital waste treatment, replacement of neon and incandescent lamps with LED lamps, and solar energy: Lacor is becoming increasingly green,” as Dominique Corti explains. Thanks to the hospital’s technical department, we are absolutely sure that the panels donated by Enel will be installed, put into operation and receive the necessary maintenance. A similar certainty is not always obvious in Africa."

The delivery of prostheses and spare parts cannot even be taken for granted. In Africa, it is becoming increasingly critical to send humanitarian aid to poor areas. According to UN study published two years ago, 60-80 percent of aid is spent on shipping materials to where they are needed.

The system developed by the team of the Roman school is accessible to all. A crusher crushes the plastic and an extruder melts it creating a plastic thread which is transformed into prostheses and spare parts using two PCs and three 3D printers. The costs for the technology were covered in full by a fundraising campaign on the Eppela crowdfunding platform. Good ideas are often able to make it on their own.