Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

CES 2014: How 3D printing’s changing lives in S Sudan

In 2010, Mick Ebeling, founder of a company called Not Impossible, spearheaded the creation of the Eyewriter, eye-tracking glasses using open-source software, to allow paralysed people to draw and communicate using only their eyes.

Then, in November last year, Not Impossible printed a prosthetic hand that allowed a teenager to feed himself for the first time in two years. But that was just the beginning.

In the past two days, Ebeling has stunned audiences at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas with the story of Project Daniel.

Late last year, he set up the world's first 3D-printing prosthetic lab and training facility in Sudan's Nuba Mountains. The first "patient" was a boy called Daniel, who had had both his arms blown off at the age of 14.

The boy, now 16, was living in a 70 000-person refugee camp in Yida, South Sudan. On 11 November, he received the first version of a prosthetic left arm. It was named after the boy himself: the Daniel Hand. And it enabled him to feed himself for the first time in two years. According to Ebeling, he also ate chocolate for the first time.

With the assistance of an American doctor, Tom Catena, the team then set about teaching others to print and assemble 3D prostheses. By the time the Americans returned home, local trainees had printed and fitted another two arms, underlining the project's lasting benefit beyond the presence of the Not Impossible team.

Equally astonishingly, Project Daniel successfully unfolded in a region where fighting was escalating, and where the people taught to use the 3D printers had barely any knowledge of computers.

"We're hopeful that other children and adults in other regions of Africa, as well as other continents, will utilise the power of this new technology for similar beginnings," says 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."

Robohand
The Daniel Hand was originally designed at the Not Impossible headquarters in Venice, California (United States), using crowdsourcing to pull in "a dream team of innovators". Prominent among them was the South African inventor of the Robohand, Richard Van As, a master carpenter from Johannesburg.

The team also included an Australian neuroscientist and a 3D printing company owner. The project was supported by precision engineering company Precipart and by chipmaker Intel, which included Ebeling in its own events at CES this week.

"We are on the precipice of a can-do maker community that is reaching critical mass," says Elliot V Kotek, Not Impossible's content chief and co-founder. "There is no shortage of knowledge, and we are linking the brightest technical minds and creative problem-solvers around the globe. Project Daniel is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg."

While Project Daniel focuses on medical benefits of 3D printing, the project proves that the ultimate benefit the technology can bring is limited only by the human imagination. – Gadget.co.za

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Related stories

WELCOME TO YOUR M&G

If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here

Advertising

Subscribers only

R350 social relief grant not enough to live on

Nearly half of the population in South Africa — one of the most unequal countries in the world — is considered chronically poor.

More top stories

Young and jobless? Apply for one of 287 000 education...

Education department urges young, jobless people to apply for teaching assistant vacancies

Officials implicated in arts council mismanagement will be brought to...

The National Arts Council vows that every cent from the sector’s Covid-19-relief programme will be disbursed to artists, after auditors uncover maladministration

Covid-19 vaccine mandates: a constitutional balancing act

South Africa’s laws allow the government to implement mandatory Covid vaccinations but, if it chooses this path, it must do so responsibly

Popularity will not guarantee mayoral selection — Ramaphosa

ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa has promised a more rigorous mayoral selection process, which will involve the party’s top six
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×