3D Printing Enabling War Torn Communities – Robohand and Project Daniel (Not Impossible Labs)
Written by Beth van As
7 January 2014
In October of 2013 Rich flew to Los Angeles, USA, to meet up with Mick Ebeling and the group from Not Impossible Labs. His soul purpose was to teach Mick how to put together a Robohand and Roboarm.
The few short days they had in LA together were not enough to transfer the knowledge so Mick flew to Johannesburg, South Africa on his way to the Sudan to spend a few extra days with Rich to complete his training. The best was he had a live subject to practice on!
Mick’s journey began when he heard about Daniel Omar who was only 14 when he had his arms blown off in the Sudanese war. Once Robohand launched their Roboarm, Mick contacted Rich about Project Daniel where Rich designed a new hand for the Roboarm which has been called the “Daniel Hand”. The new signature for Roboarm.
Mick arrived at the Robohand workshop and not much sleep was had over the 3 days he was here. It was a whirlwind of activity and when I arrived home from work on day one, I was enveloped by Mick and put to work setting up all the laptops and equipment to ensure everything would be working correctly when they set up in the Sudan. There is no internet access in the Nuba Mountains so we needed to ensure that all automatic updates and any internet related system tech was turned off. We needed to download the correct software for the Makerbot’s that he was taking with him.
The workshop hummed and sang with all the printers working furiously, mostly 24/7, spewing out meters and meters of PLA, creating the pieces for the Roboarms for Mick to practice with, as well as stock to take to the Sudan. Learning how to ensure the sizing is correct, rendering the files and sending them to print. Unlocking all the SD cards and ensuring that Mick had all the correct files to print the Roboarm. When you don’t know anything about 3D printing these small things can seem a bit daunting.
Then it was ensuring Mick understood all the fundamentals of Roboarm; how the mathematics worked, so once fitted the arm functions; learning all the little things like molding Orthoplastic, stringing fingers, adjusting cables and assembly. A lot of knowledge to cram into a very short space of time. Rich was ever the teacher, instructing but also encouraging “out the box” thinking when Mick hit a stone wall. Rich teaching him to pull from his surroundings and not only rely solely on technology; be creative and use what is around you.
At the same time that Mick arrived, Ty from Altanta, was also at Robohand learning all she could to enable her to set up the Robohand clinic in Atlanta, USA. It was a crazy time in our household; very emotional hearing about Daniel as I know the joy when a person receives a device that can change their life forever. When Mick fitted the Roboarm he had created to his guinea pig the tears were evident in the recapture at the workbench that evening. During our discussions there were some things that did not need to be said as the raw emotion was plain to see.
To be part of a project like this one with Daniel, took Robohand back to our roots. Helping others help others. Spreading the knowledge and enabling communities to help themselves. The hardest part for me is not having enough funding to do this all over the world.
Following are some of the pictures taken during our Not Impossible Visit.