Hi Reddit. I’m Mick Ebeling, founder of Not Impossible Labs. We're a community of innovators who use technology for the sake of humanity. We recently created the world’s first 3D prosthetic printing lab deep in the mountains of South Sudan. You can watch a video about the project here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ol19tt3VWhQ You can also check out my Ted Talk for our first project, the Eyewriter, here: http://www.ted.com/talks/mick_ebeling_the_invention_that_unlocked_a_locked_in_artist

Everything we hack and create, we do so with the intent of making the information open source so that everyone can benefit. So in that spirit, AMA!

Proof: http://www.notimpossiblelabs.com/#!mick-ebeling/clso


Hey everyone, thanks so much for your questions. I’m going to try and answer a few more before I have to go but to anyone I miss, here’s a link to an interactive Q/A where I talk a little more about my experience with Project Daniel. Also, we’re gearing up for Project Daniel 2.0 as well as a number of other projects, so if you’d like to join our team we’d be lucky to have you. WE NEED VOLUNTEERS ! Please consider signing up here: http://www.notimpossiblelabs.com/#!join/cz6d

Comments: 79 • Responses: 20  • Date: 

TehMidnightMayor7 karma

What were the expenses for this? Was money ever an issue?

MickEbeling8 karma

Money was definitely an issue. It's expensive enough just to to get humans to the Nuba mountains, then factor in buying and transporting and things added up quickly. We had to buy the printers, buy the filament for the printers, the tools to assemble the arms, the hardware for the arms, the plastic for the arms… etc. We knew that after we left there was not going to be an easy way for us to restock the raw supplies the hospital needed, so we had to buy enough supplies to last for a while. Lucky for us we got Precipart and Intel to underwrite the project so we could just focus on doing the work. Very grateful for that.

choboy4564 karma

Do you hear much from the people after you fit them with prosthetics, ie how it has affected their lives?

MickEbeling6 karma

I speak with Dr. Tom and some of the team from the Nuba mountains about every other week or so just to check in on them. Its not really possible for me to stay in touch with the people we made the prosthetics for because where they live there is no electricity, no internet and the people don't have access to computers or mobile phones. ... and then there is that issue of me not speaking arabic! ha!

binarycode011 karma

What does Dr. Tom and the team have to say? Is the printer still there, so they can make more prostheses, particularly for kids as they grow out of their current ones?

Or were most of the people you helped adults? Thanks!

MickEbeling5 karma

What does Dr. Tom and the team have to say?

Dr. Tom is amazing. He was the inspiration to do this and his drive to secure a prosthetic solution for the people he cares for is what pulled us to the Nuba Mountains.

Is the printer still there, so they can make more prostheses, particularly for kids as they grow out of their current ones?

Yep. We left them with printers and a whole bunch of materials so they can keep on printing!

Or were most of the people you helped adults?

It was a cross section of people. The youngest were Daniel's age and then it went up from there.

tobeornot0be3 karma

Mick, You are doing a great job. I am bored of this everyday IT job and I want to do something good for humanity. Would it be possible for me to go with you guys next time and help you guys with anything you need. Not asking for any kind of pay. Please do contact me at [email protected] if I could be of any help.

MickEbeling1 karma

We would love you to help us. Maybe travel with us, but definitely help us hack-code-solve something. We know that there are many, many more people out there like you. Get your IT friends to join Not Impossible. Tackle one of our next challenges. Help us make something else Not Impossible for someone. That is where you/we can make the biggest difference. http://www.notimpossiblelabs.com/#!join/cz6d

vektornaut2 karma

Have you had any experiences of culture shock? Or even run into any sort of opposition to what you are doing out there? I also wanna say this whole project is amazing and a great example of awesome people using technology in the best possible way.

MickEbeling5 karma

The biggest culture shock I experienced was the 2nd day I arrived back in LA. It was Thanksgiving so I was surrounded by a loving family, a lawful state, people not bombing each other, copious amounts of food, and general safety. It was shocking to be in what was to me, just 30 days prior, a "normal" situation that seemed so ridiculously bountiful compared to where I was a few days prior. That was the "re-entry shock" I experienced. 

Avenger0592 karma

Firstly i think your work is amazing and has great potential.

  1. How long until 3D printed limbs become available
  2. How much cheaper is it to produce a 3D printed limb compared to a normal prosthetic
  3. Do you do legs?

MickEbeling7 karma

  1. 3D printed limbs are available now, but you have to make them yourself or find someone to make them for you. I don't know of any commercially available 3D prosthetics limbs at this time.
  2. It seems like prosthetics are coming down in price, but we always say that "normal" hospital prosthetics are usually $10-15K USD and higher. The prosthetics we made in the Nuba mountains we estimate costing about $100, not including the man hours and cost of the printer.
  3. I don't do lower limb prosthetics.

crnr2 karma

Wow, I'm having a minor flashback watching your TED talk. I worked (and lived) at a company in Syracuse in 1999-2001 called the Center for Really Neat Research doing pretty much exactly what you did. Here's a video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SL5qGFeVIXM

The hardware side of the system was an analog to digital converter box and super cheap sensors. Switches, pressure sensors, photocells, potentiometer, accelerometers, etc, most hand made from basic electronic components, for next to nothing. We worked with people with severe physical and/or mental disabilities and allowed them to connect to the computer. We did also work with commercial sensors too. I remember one guy we used a commercial eye tracker, but it was pretty expensive. On the software side, we had a visual programming environment called NeatTools that would easily allow anyone to take the inputs from the sensors and do any task on the computer. So even people with very poor or crude motor skills could use this successfully. Like you we did this free of charge for our clients.

The software is free and open source, although it's quite out of date, I think it was written for windows 95? http://www.neattools.org/ It was designed to work with the input box, but it isn't required.

I miss the work. It was very rewarding and super fun. It sounds like you're doing some amazing stuff. Keep it up.

MickEbeling1 karma

That is awesome. Thanks for sharing that. I will def take a look.

Jpg20052 karma

What would you do for a Klondike bar?

MickEbeling14 karma

I don't have to do anything for a Klondike bar. I print my own.

Wait_For_It_Eriksen2 karma

Are you hiring? I'm so down to help out a cause!

MickEbeling1 karma

We are ALWAYS "hiring." But most everyone at Not Impossible is a volunteer right now. Register on http://www.notimpossiblelabs.com/#!join/cz6d

mcfeeley1 karma

Have you stayed in touch with the boy, Daniel, since leaving? How is he doing now?

MickEbeling1 karma

I have stayed in touch with Daniel, mostly through Dr. Tom. Daniel started school last week in Gidel which is very exciting because he wasn't really going to school when he was living in Yida camp.

rlleung1 karma

What's the difference between the 3d printer you have and the ones available to us now? What materials do you print with?

MickEbeling2 karma

The exact same thing. I bought mine over the counter just like you can. There is nothing special about it.

singularity_is_here1 karma

I've got a few questions:

  • Are the 3D part files available online?

  • What kind of slicing software do you use?

  • What kind of compounds do you use here for extrusion? Are they non-newtonian?

MickEbeling3 karma

There are many different 3D prosthetic files online. We partnered with Robohand, so check out: http://www.thingiverse.com/robohand/designs to see where it all started in the first place. Richard is the godfather of it all.

Notorious_Junk1 karma


How long does it take to produce a prosthetic arm via 3D printing?

MickEbeling2 karma

All times approx, and based on printer settings:

6 hrs - palm, knuckles, fingers 
4 hrs - twisty wrist (thing that allows you to change the hand’s position)
 2 hrs - elbow hinges 
1 hr - string cams (things we run the strings thru to cause the fingers to flex)

Pugs5011 karma

How will the technology for the prosthetic arms improve in the future?

MickEbeling3 karma

The beautiful thing about keeping our work open source is that everything will improve with every new version that people modify. The people using the prosthetics are the ones who advance the tech & physiology the most.

pampurio1 karma

What's the estimated lifetime of a 3D-printed prosthetic arm? And how much does it cost, compared to a traditional one?

MickEbeling3 karma

Good question… we don't really know yet because we haven't had them in use for very long. The nice thing is that if a part breaks you just print the replacement part.

Legendary_Taco61 karma

What was the most touching thing you have seen there?

MickEbeling5 karma

By far the most touching thing I saw was the absolute unconditional love that Daniel's caretaker had for him. The caretaker was an 8-9 year old boy (he didn't know how old he was) named Shaki. Shaki had to do everything for Daniel. Feed him, bathe him, everything. Not once did I ever see him show any frustration when he had to do things for Daniel. He was always so accommodating and giving, but in the most natural and normal way. I have kids and I know for a fact, that is nearly impossible to do… and I believe in Not Impossible! Ha!

chris410901 karma

What is the worst thing you saw there.

MickEbeling5 karma

While we were there, a young boy named Mubarek was admitted into the hospital. The Sudanese government did what they do every day and dropped bombs on civilian targets - this time Mubarek’s village. Mubarek had his arm blown off and I watched the amputation surgery. But the worst thing was that his 6 & 8 year old brothers were killed by the same bomb.

An amazing volunteer team (Tomo Kriznar, Ufos Strand, Jacob William) actually captured the live bombing of Mubarek's village. This video is very graphic so watch at your own risk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QO0H1AYke2U

The sad thing is that this is reality of what is going on over there, and the reason I had to go to the Nuba mountains.

MALCOMcompleX1 karma

First of all, I respect the hell out of what you're doing. Thank you for doing this AMA. My question is: how do you weigh the good of what you're doing versus the personal danger of traveling into a war zone. It appeared in the video that you have a family. How did they feel about you going?

MickEbeling3 karma

That is a great question. I will try to be brief.

Yes, I have a family. 
Yes, I thought long and hard about the knurly situation I was flying into. In the end, I took many careful precautions to lessen the chances of leaving my kids without a Dad. But there were still risks, and it was an active war zone. In the end I decided - with my family - that there are things that need to be done in life and this was one of them. If I didn't go make and arm for daniel, and train his village to make arms, I would always know that I could have and didn't. And the ironic pun is that I wouldn't be able live with that.

potsyflank1 karma

Holy fuck. What the fuck. You are fucking awesome! OK my brain loses vocabulary when it is astounded like I am by reading about what you do. Sorry 'boot that.

(Edited, question answered - looks like you taught the village how to fish too, proverbially speaking) Would you go somewhere else and do it again, maybe somewhere like Central America where you could relax a little too? (Forgive my ignorance, I am sure you can relax in the Sudan too, just seems a little more intense of a place). Any other projects upcoming?

MickEbeling4 karma

Actually, we are in the process of planning Project Daniel 2.0. My goal for this is to go to 15 different developing countries to set up Not Impossible 3D prosthetic labs… and I want to do this by Nov 11 which is the anniversary of Daniel feeding himself for the first time in 2 years. Super excited to make this happen.

pdoggie1 karma

Now this is the sort of thing that gives me hope for the future. What an amazing use of technology. Any plans or hopes of bringing it to other countries in need?