Science, Tech & Environment

How a California man is using 3-D printers to bring prosthetic limbs to war-torn Sudan

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Credit: Courtesy of Not Impossible Lab

Mick Ebeling says watching Daniel eat with his prosthetic arm was on par with witnessing the birth of his children.

Not Impossible Lab's Mick Ebeling is up to his neck right now in Project Daniel — an innovative, award-winning initiative that's using 3D printers to provide prosthetic limbs to amputees in war-torn Sudan.

Ebeling was moved to start Project Daniel after reading a news story about Daniel, a young man who lost both of his hands to the conflict in Sudan when he was just 14. He was worried he was now just a burden to his parents. Ebeling, who has young sons of his own, said the teen's words hit him "right in the gut".

"When we bought the plane tickets to go over, we didn't know how to make an arm, we didn't know how to 3D print and make this thing, didn't know where Daniel was, but we'd committed and we'd figure it out," Ebeling says.

After travelling to Sudan with the 3D printer and materials, and showing the resident doctor at the refugee camp and several refugees how to print prosthetic limbs, Ebeling is proud to say the project is now run by locals. He now plans to start chapters in other countries, like Vietnam, Cambodia and Colombia. 

"Our philosophy on what we do is help one, help many — and that has been the best guide post to everything we do," Ebeling says. "Do something for that one person, and then make it free. Then you have the ability for it to scale and go big."

Watch Daniel use his prosthetic arm in the video embedded below.

This story first appeared as a blog post from Q with Jian Ghomeshi, an energetic daily arts, culture and entertainment magazine that takes you on a smart and surprising ride.

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