How a TIME Article Led To The Invention Of A $100 3D-Printed Artificial Limb

Harry McCracken | TIME | January 7, 2014

This prosthetic arm can be produced in around six hours.

After a little more than a month, Daniel’s arms have healed into neat, smooth stumps, with barely a scar. The same can’t be said of his mind. “Without hands, I can’t do anything,” says Daniel. “I can’t even fight. I’m going to make such hard work for my family in the future.” He looks me straight in the eye. “If I could have died, I would have,” he says.

That’s the bleak conclusion to a bleak TIME story by Alex Perry from April 2012. It concerns Daniel Omar, a Sudanese 14-year-old who had his hands blown off by a bomb dropped by the Sudanese government in an attack on rebel forces. Dr. Tom Catena, an American surgeon who lives and works in Sudan’s Nuba Mountains, saved Daniel’s life, but Omar was still left incomplete. He’s one of 50,000 amputees in South Sudan.

Remarkably, though, the story went on to become much, much happier — and yes, it’s one that makes sense to be told here in’s tech section.

Among the people who read Perry’s article was Mick Ebeling, the co-founder and CEO of Not Impossible Labs, a research firm that aims to tackle daunting healthcare challenges using low-cost, open-source methods. Moved by the story, he ended up traveling to the Nuba Mountains, where he met Daniel. More important, Ebeling helped him, and ignited an effort that could help thousands of other people in Daniel’s situation.