Back in 2012, Time magazine published an article describing the plight of a 14-year-old boy named Daniel Omar, who lost both hands to a bomb dropped by his own government. One reader, Mick Ebeling, CEO of Not Impossible Labs, was so moved by the story that he decided to do something about it. So he packed up his bags, grabbed some laptops and 3D printers, and headed to the Nuba Mountains of Sudan to build Daniel a new arm.
Daniel is only one of 50,000 amputees in South Sudan, so Ebeling’s goal wasn’t just to build a single prosthetic — he wanted to set up a lab at a local hospital to produce low-cost prosthetic limbs for thousands of patients long after he left. Not only are locals being trained to produce the limbs, which cost about $100 for materials, in about six hours, but Not Impossible is also providing the open-source design free of charge so similar programs can be implemented around the world.
The arms being printed aren’t as precise as the real thing. They can’t lift heavy weights, can only perform limited motions with the fingers, and require special attachments to hold utensils. Still, they allow a level of independence some of these patients haven’t had in years: after receiving his new arm, Daniel was able to finally feed himself for the first time in two years. Now, he’s using his arm to help produce prosthetics for others.