3D-printed prostheses give hope to amputees in war-torn Sudan
By Nick Lavars
January 20, 2014
While 3D printing technology has emerged to serve a wide variety of purposes, few appear more worthwhile than that of US-based company Not Impossible Labs. Through its Daniel Project, the company has not only provided 3D-printed prosthetic arms for amputees in war-torn Sudan, but empowered the local community to continue the initiative in its absence.
The origins of the project date back to 2012 when Daniel Omar, then aged 14, was attending to his family's cows when a bomb was dropped on nearby rebel forces. Seeking cover behind a tree, Daniel was able to to save his life, but not his hands, losing both to the blast which ultimately left him with two stumps for upper arms.
After hearing Daniel's story, Not Impossible co-founder and CEO Mick Ebeling says he was compelled to act. Feeling invigorated following the success of his EyeWriter project, which enables artists with paralysis to draw using their eyes, Ebeling crowd-sourced a team of innovative experts from various fields to tackle his next venture.
Comprising the creator of the RoboHand Richard Van As, an Australian MIT neuroscientist, and the owner of a Californian 3D printing company, the team set to work in designing an arm that was effective and relatively cheap compared to traditional prostheses. The end result was a 3D-printed prosthetic hand that enabled Daniel to feed himself for the first time in two years (he ate three brownies).
In keeping with Not Impossible's slogan, "Help One. Help Many," Ebeling and his team set up a workshop in a local hospital and trained local clinicians to print and build the prosthetic arms themselves. "Teaching a man to fish" appears to have been an effective approach, as the company says that within one and a half weeks of departing Sudan, the local workshop had already created four prosthetic arms.
Not Impossible says that the technology behind the 3D-printed arms is and will remain open-source, in the hope that it will inspire similar projects and bring assistance to what it estimates are 50,000 amputees in South Sudan, as well as others around the world.
"We're hopeful that other children and adults in other regions of Africa, as well as other continents around the globe, will utilize the power of this new technology for similar beginnings," said Ebeling. "We believe Daniel's story will ignite a global campaign. The sharing of the prostheses' specifications, which Not Impossible will provide free and open-source, will enable any person in need, anywhere on the planet, to use technology for its best purpose: restoring humanity."
Ebeling talks about the project in the video below.
Source: Not Impossible