How a 3D printer helped a bomb hit teenager get a new hand


    The translation of the article from The Guardian is made for you by the Top 3D Shop .

    When Mick Ebeling read about a South Sudanese boy who had lost both hands, he armed himself with 3D printers and went on a journey to make new limbs for the teenager. Now this project gives hope to another 50 thousand amputees in the country.

    In warring South Sudan, one has to choose: limbs or life. In any case, this is the reality for Daniel Omar. In March 2012, when he was 14 years old, he hugged a tree trunk in an attempt to protect himself from the shock of a blast wave. Moving away, he found that he no longer had hands. In the same year, Omar told a Time reporter : if he knew in advance that he would put such a burden on his family, he would rather die that day under the deadly weight of a military aircraft.

    Despite the fact that tens of thousands of people lost their arms and legs due to shrapnel wounds during the bombing, providing prosthetics is not a priority for humanitarian organizations in South Sudan.

    Médecins Sans Frontières is mainly an organization for emergencies,Says David Nash, the chief representative of Doctors Without Borders in South Sudan. “ At the moment, the priority is the search for people who need to save their lives .”

    However, David adds that for the sake of the future of the country, access to prosthetics, of course, should also be welcomed.

    In November 2013, Mick Ebeling spent a month in Sudan, hoping to find Daniel and make a new hand for him. He had printers, reels with plastic, and cables with him. 3D printersThey create plastic parts so that the result looks high-tech, but, in fact, the resulting arm is a simple mechanical device. The prosthesis works due to the fact that body movements involve cables stretched through plastic structures like ligaments in the human body. When the user turns or bends the remaining part of his limb, the cables are pulled, which leads to compression or extension of the fingers on the prosthesis.
    There are situations when such a mechanism cannot be applied, since the prosthesis must be attached to the preserved part of the body.

    With the technology that is currently available to us, it’s hard to help people whose body is damaged significantly ,” says Elliot Kotek, co-founder of Not Impossible Labs. -At least something from the limb must remain, for use as a basis . "
    But out of more than 50 thousand amputees of South Sudan, many of whom are still young, a significant number of people can be helped.

    The project was originally called the "Daniel Project". But it was not clear whether Daniel Omar could be found. The teenager lived somewhere between the refugee camp in South Sudan - a settlement called Ida - and his home in the Nubian Mountains. These mountains have long been a disputed territory, where various groups often quarreled and government bombings took place.
    In addition, there was some concern: even if the guy can be found, will he be interested in such an offer?

    "We thought: maybe he won’t even want to take a hand from this tall bald white man as a present, ”laughs Elliot, turning to Mick. - We don’t know, what if he’s so normal?


    Nevertheless, even though Daniel, who is now 16 years old, has signed a contract, he seemed like a hermit for a long time - he stayed away and only occasionally looked at a foreigner who came from afar in order to collect a new limb for him. But when the 60-pound prosthesis, which takes several days to complete, was finally connected, the guy got excited.

    It was amazing to watch this boy emerge from his sink ,” Mick says, recalling the moment when Daniel was able to take a spoon for the first time since the injury. -To help a guy eat on his own - the intensity of how I experienced this moment reminds me of the days my children were born . ”


    Another purpose of Mick Ebeling’s journey was to tell the person who he read about in the Time article, Dr. Tom Caten, about the project. Tom performed operations on Daniel and is the only qualified amputator in a radius of many kilometers. The doctor showed interest in the development, and Mick, leaving South Sudan, left them with the boy inspired by a new idea. However, he was still afraid that the application of the innovation presented by him would remain an isolated case.

    When I flew to Los Angeles and turned on the phone again, I saw a letter from Dr. Katen:“ The guys finished the production of two more hands while you were in the air ”"He says.

    Ever since Mick returned home in South Sudan, a new prosthesis has been printed weekly - thanks to the two 3D printers he left there. Cars zeal hard - mostly at night, when it's cool enough for stable operation. The printed parts are assembled by eight locals trained to operate the devices, collect prostheses and configure them for the recipients.

    The main goal of the team was not to replenish the ranks of organizations that simply dump assistance somewhere and leave the place, says Mick. Not Impossible weekly calls up with Tom Catena over the phone and continues to supply plastic for prosthetics. Daniel easily handles his device, but trust can only be measured across the entire community.

    "At first, these children wanted hands that corresponded to their skin tone, because they didn’t want to stand out , says Elliot Kotek, but since hands like the prototype first introduced by Daniel gradually spread throughout the community, bold strokes of colored plastic began to appear: where is turquoise and where are shades of pink . ”


    Amid the community’s hospitality, the “hand of Daniel” becomes a statement - a unifying element: its owners are now bound by their newfound independence.

    What do you think about this initiative and its implementation? Can such a project exist in Russia, and will it be successful? Share your opinion in the comments.

    Also popular now: