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How 3D printed arms are changing Sudanese lives

By , IT in government editor
Africa , 10 Jan 2014

How 3D printed arms are changing Sudanese lives

The world’s first 3D prosthetic printing lab in Sudan's war-torn Nuba Mountains, near to the South Sudan border, is bringing hope to those who have lost their arms.

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas this week, US based foundation ‘Not Impossible’ has unveiled how it is producing printed prosthetic arms and hands using 3D-printer technology.

Dubbed the ‘Daniel Hand’, the prosthetic limbs have been named after 16-year-old Sudanese boy, Daniel, who had lost both his arms in a bomb explosion.

Ongoing violence affects the Nuba Mountains amid fighting between the largely Christian and pro-SPLA Nuba people and northern government forces, according to the BBC.

Daniel then was the first recipient of Not Impossible’s 3D printed prosthetic arm, but five more people have also received the ‘Daniel Hand’.

Elliot Kotek, who is the content chief at Not Impossible, told ITWeb Africa that the motivation for the Daniel Hand was inspired by a TIME magazine story of Daniel, and follows on the launch of the ‘Robohand’ in South Africa.

“Richard Van As invented the Robohand in South Africa. And he made it available and open-source so that anybody with a 3D printer, anywhere in the world, can download the files and print the hand and arm components,” said Kotek.

Using files to build the arms, the Not Impossible team used 3D printer technology to print and assemble 3D prostheses for Daniel’s arm.

Components required in assembling the Daniel Hand include plastic filament, metal screws, nuts and bolts.

Orthoplastic is also used to then mold the prosthetic to a person’s limb.

Kotek explained what drives Not Impossible’s mission.

“We want to help as many children (and adults) as possible, and to see if we could teach the locals there, many of whom hadn't used a laptop, and who definitely hadn't seen or heard of a 3D printer before, to use the technology,” Kotek told ITWeb Africa.

“They managed to learn the tools incredibly quickly by anyone's standards, and are now embracing that technology for the betterment of their community.

“By setting up the lab there in difficult conditions, we now know that the project can travel almost anywhere around the globe,” he explained.

Kotek added that Not Impossible hopes that the Project Daniel could have a global impact, resulting in more people becoming aware of how 3D printing technology can help with the likes of prosthetics.

“The benefit of open source is that the designs are being improved and shared by the community and that this is a very real help in enabling people to regain some level of independence - feeding themselves, clothing themselves, which also frees up the time of the people helping them, too, so the benefits are magnified,” he concluded.

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