Project Daniel: 3D-printed prosthetic limbs change lives in the Sudan

Nadine Kalinauskas
Good News

Thanks to a 3D printer and a compassionate stranger, 16-year-old Daniel Omar has a new arm.

The Sudanese teenager was the subject of a 2012 TIME story. He lost his hands in a bomb attack by the government on rebel forces. And while American surgeon Dr. Tom Catena was able to save Daniel's life, the boy still faced a life filled with uncertainty.

"Without hands, I can't do anything," Daniel, then 14, told TIME's Alex Perry. "I can't even fight. I'm going to make such hard work for my family in the future."

Mick Ebeling, co-founder and CEO of Not Impossible Labs, read the TIME article and decided to take action.

He traveled to the Nuba Mountains to meet Daniel.

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"I'm just wired that way," he told Kevin Newman Live. "It's better to do something than sit home and watch."

He met with Catena and together they set up the world's first 3D-printing prosthetic lab and training facility at a local hospital where consumer-grade 3D printers could be set up to produce low-cost prosthetic limbs.

Daniel was the first to receive an arm.

The new appendage, which cost about $100 to make and took about six hours to print, isn't perfect — it needs special attachments to hold utensils and it can't lift heavy objects — but it has given Daniel hope.

For the first time in two years, Daniel can feed himself — and offer grateful hugs to the man who changed his life.

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Ebeling calls the prosthetic-printing mission "Project Daniel." His research firm is offering the open-source design free of charge, hoping that amputees all over the world will benefit from it.

"We're hopeful that other children and adults in other regions of Africa, as well as other continents around the globe, will utilize the power of this new technology for similar beginnings," Ebeling said in a press release. "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."

Before returning to the U.S., Ebeling taught people in the Sudan to create the limbs. They are now printing one limb a week without his assistance, Kevin Newman Live reported.