Unconference Session 1: Supply Chains

What can we do as a community to make it possible to get the parts and ensure quality production?

  • Import costs to African countries can be crazy: importing 10kg with UPS from Taiwan was $1000! Transport can cost more than the goods.
  • Import tax is also high - can be 30%
  • Equipment also often gets broken or arrives really slowly (can take weeks to months - customs delays and slow communication are often a big part of the problem, incurring storage fees)
  • Often equipment gets broken during transport or storage.
  • There are lots of cheap suppliers, but quality is not always good - particularly for filament. Currently, BTech use filament from RS Components in the UK! Storage and packaging are as important as the filament, need to avoid moisture getting into the filament.

How do we make this better?

  • Supply chain starts with the original suppliers - Pi, filament, electronics. Most suppliers are in China.
  • African producers of printing filament (PLA or PET) would be fantastic.
  • Forming relationships with specific Chinese suppliers rather than just using AliExpress or similar can lead to better quality and more reliable shipping.

Fatigue tests were a really interesting exercise: at BTech, we ran the microscopes continuously - cheap, low quality (£12/kg from generic suppliers) filament failed in days. Better quality from RS Components lasted for months.

@nanocastro mentioned there’s filament production in Argentina…

@dgrosen mentioned eSun filament (from China) for $20/kg

@NyakyiJr suggested it would be great if we could share good suppliers of filament (and Raspberry Pis)

Some sort of wiki might work better than a forum for that.

This sort of thing is somewhere that groups could be useful - e.g. pool orders to get the volume up, so you get fewer big deliveries and then redistribute within local networks. It’s sometimes cheaper to move within Africa rather than import from outside - but not always…

Creating an OFM slack channel would be very useful. Planktoscope is using that:

Slack has come up once or twice before - I’ve heard some pretty strong opinions both ways. I’m quite ambivalent about it, but at least for the moment if there was an OpenFlexure Slack, it would be missing some key people (because they really really don’t like it). Do you think Slack offers big advantages over a forum like this?

This is the company that I mentioned
They distribute in several places of latam. I can ask them about exporting to other countries