A company called Not Impossible Labs has come up with one of the best uses for 3D printer technology we’ve ever heard of: printing low-cost prosthetic arms for people, mainly children, who have lost limbs in the war-torn country of Sudan.
The project was the brain child of Mick Ebeling, founder of Not Impossible, a company dedicated to “technology for the sake of humanity.” Not Impossible is probably best known for its “Eyewriter” eye tracking glasses, created with free open source software, that helped a paralysed graffiti artist draw and communicate using only his eyes.
Project Daniel started in 2012, when Ebeling read a story in Time magazine about Daniel Omar, a then 14-year-old Sudanese boy who lost both his hands from a bomb.
It inspired Ebeling to assemble a team capable of creating a low-cost, 3D-printed prosthetic on consumer-grade 3D printers. The team included the South African inventor of the Robohand, an Australian MIT neuroscientist, a 3D printing company in California and was supported by Intel and an engineering company called Precipart.
The arms they developed are inexpensive enough to be available to anyone who needs one, costing around $US100 to produce, and can be printed in about six hours, reports Time’s Harry McCracken.
Daniel recieved his left arm in November and Ebeling then set up a 3D printing lab in a nearby hospital, Not Impossible says. Since then, many others have received arms and the effort could eventually help thousands.
The 3D printed arm isn’t as sophisticated as high-end prosthetics. Daniel can’t precisely control the fingers or lift heavy objects, though perhaps future versions of the arm will solve those problems.
But it’s a huge improvement over his life before where, without hands, he couldn’t do basic tasks like feed himself.
Now he’s working at the hospital helping print arms for other people.
Ebeling discussed Project Daniel at CES in Las Vegas during Intel’s keynote this week.
Here’s the video Ebeling posted about Project Daniel.
If you need a heartwarming moment, check out the video at 2:10 where Daniel feeds himself for the first time in two years. Inspiring stuff.