Making Tech Accessible: Helping Amputees in War-Torn Sudan

3Dprinting_SudanThe new year is just flying by pretty quickly, and many relevant stories involving life-changing tech developments are flying by even faster. And in my business and haste to deal with my own writing, I’ve sadly let a lot of stories slip through my fingers. Lucky for me that there’s no statute of limitations when it comes to blogging. Even if you cover something late, it’s not like someone’s going to fire you!

That said, here is one news item I’m rather of ashamed of having not gotten to sooner. It’s no secret that 3D printing is offering new possibilities for amputees and prosthetic devices, in part because the technology is offering greater accessibility and lower costs to those who need them. And one area that is in serious need is the developing and wartorn nation of Sudan.

robotic_hand2And thanks to Mick Ebeling, co-founder and CEO of Not Impossible Labs, 3D printed prosthetics are now being offered to victims of the ongoing war. After learning of a 14-year old boy named Daniel who lost both arms in a government air raid, he traveled to the Nuba Mountains to meet him in person. Having already worked on a similar project in South Africa, he decided to bring 3D printed prosthetics to the area.

Ebeling was so moved by Daniel’s plight that he turned to a world-class team of thinkers and doers – including the inventor of the Robohand, an MIT neuroscientist, a 3D printing company in California, and funding from Intel and Precipart – to see how they could help Daniel and kids like him. Fittingly, he decided to name it “Project Daniel”.

ProjectDaniel-Training-NotImpossibleAnd now, just a year later, Not Impossible Labs has its own little lab at a hospital in the region where it is able to print prosthetic arms for $100 a pop, and in less than six hours. Meanwhile, Daniel not only got his left-arm prosthetic in November, but he is currently employed at the hospital helping to print prosthetics for others children who have suffered the same fate as him.

Ebeling says the printed arm isn’t as sophisticated as others out there, but it did allow him to feed himself for the first time in two years. And while Daniel won’t be able to lift heavy objects or control his fingers with great precision, the prosthetic is affordable and being produced locally, so it also serves as an economically viable stand-in until the tech for 3D-printed prosthetics improves and comes down in cost.

Not-ImpossibleNot Impossible Labs, which has already fitted others with arms, says it hopes to extend its campaign to thousands like Daniel. It’s even made the design open source in the hopes that others around the world will be able to replicate the project, setting up similar labs to provide low-cost prosthetics to those in need. After all, there are plenty of war torn regions in the developing world today, and no shortage of victims.

In the coming years, it would be incredibly encouraging to see similar labs set up in developing nations in order to address the needs of local amputees. In addition to war, landmines, terrorism, and even lack of proper medical facilities give rise to the need for cheap, accessible prosthetics. All that’s really needed is an internet connection, a 3D printer, and some ABS plastic for raw material.

ProjectDaniel-Mohammad&Daniel-NotImpossibleNone of this is beyond the budgets of most governments or NGOs, so such partnerships are not only possible but entirely feasible. For the sake of kids like Daniel, it’s something that we should make happen! And in the meantime, check out this video below courtesy of Not Impossible Labs which showcases the printing technology used by Project Daniel and the inspiring story behind it.

And be sure to check out their website for more information and information on how you can help!



Source:
news.cnet.com, notimpossiblelabs.com

Gun Parts Purged from 3D Printing Database

Defense_DistributedBack in December, the 3D printing company MakerBot announced its decision to purge designs for AR15 components and other weapons from its 3D printing wesbsite, known as Thingiverse. Prior to this date, it was perfectly legal to download the components of an AR-15 assault weapon from the internet.

This weapon was not only one of the guns used in the recent Newton, Connecticut shooting, it is also the weapon that Distributed Defense – a Wiki Weapons group – claims to have successfully created using 3D printed parts. In a statement released to the public, Makerbot’s spokesperson cited Terms of Service and legal issues as the reason for the decision:

“Thingiverse’s Terms of Service state that users agree not to use Thingiverse “to collect, upload, transmit, display, or distribute any User Content (ii) that…promotes illegal activities or contributes to the creation of weapons, illegal materials or is otherwise objectionable.” If an item has been removed, it is because it violates the Thingiverse Terms of Service.”

To wit, these Terms of Service have not changed, but Makerbot’s enforcement of them certainly has. By law, the company has the right to pull any items from its file list that they feel could be used in the commission of  crime. And since one of the most heinous crimes imaginable was commissioned using parts that are freely available on their site, this change is hardly surprising.

Personally, the decision seems like a no-brainer. And simply saying they don’t want people using their website to construct guns and go on shootings sprees would have sufficed for me, no need to justify it by citing legal articles! However, said components and other firearm parts still remain available on several other open source internet websites. No telling if and when they will follow Makerbot’s lead, but I think we can expect them to endorse the ban while they can still do it willingly.

Given the pressure that has been placed on the White House to ban the sale of firearms of late, especially assault weapons, and the attention Defense Distributed got with their creation of an AR-15 rifle using certain “printable parts”, it quite likely that a gun control provision will be passed that makes it illegal to print any and all gun components.

Source: news.cnet.com