e-NABLING Africa • 3D Printed Hands In Nigeria

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While the e-NABLE Community has many wonderful stories to share as more and more children receive new 3D printed e-NABLE hands from volunteers, the stories that come from underserved areas in the world are the stories that really drive home how important the work our volunteers are doing is and how they are helping to shape the future for many.

This is one of those stories.

After insurgents burned their family home to the ground in Adamawa State, Nigeria during Boko Haram attacks, 12 year old Musa and his family fled to an IDP camp located in Abaji, Abuja where a member of the CyberLogik Foundation noticed Musa’s hand had been burned and offered to assist him in making him a 3D printed e-NABLE hand device.

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When Musa was just 4 years old, he fell into the cooking fire when his grandmother stepped out of the kitchen for a moment and he lost his hand due to the burns and gangrene infection after spending 4 months in the hospital.

Members from the CyberLogik Foundation were able to gather images and measurements of Musa’s arms and 3D print him a “Cyborg Beast” hand device for him to use. They have also been working on a design improvement that they plan to re-share back into the e-NABLE community when they have completed the design remix.

Umar Khalifa Yakubu, of the CyberLogik Foundation found enablingthefuture.org while searching the internet on how to use a 3D printer to fabricate prosthetic limbs and was able to download the files he needed to help print a new hand for Musa in Abuja as well as a few RIT arms for people in need in Lagos and Sokoto, Nigeria.

According to Umar, getting 3D printers, parts and support is not an easy task in Africa. He shares,  “A lot of companies selling 3D printers, filament and parts do not ship to Nigeria. We have to ship to a warehouse in the US and ship to Nigeria using additional delivery services that charge extra. 3D printer companies also do not support  Africa so we cannot get solutions from them on technical issues or do a part swap when our parts fail. We have to buy new parts since we cannot get them fixed.”

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This is a huge problem, not only in Africa, but in many underserved areas that our volunteers are attempting to create hands in. If they do manage to get a 3D printer there to use and then something breaks, the 3D printer sits as an unused pile of useless technology because it costs too much to ship new parts to replace the broken components or there are no tech support options available to them to fix the sometimes very simple issues that could have the printer up and running and printing more devices for the individuals they are seeking to help.

Umar shares that besides the lack of tech support and parts replacement options for them, unstable power in Africa is a huge part of the problem as well. He writes, “In Africa, Nigeria to be specific, we have erratic supply of electricity and this has ripple effects such as the need to provide back up power. We use a diesel generator and a UPS device so that when we switch from mains to generator…the power supply to our printer isn’t interrupted.”

On average, an e-NABLE hand device takes between 12-20 hours of continuous printing. In places like the USA where filament rolls are around $30-50 per roll and a maker can produce 3-4 hands from one spool – a failed print results in a lot of frustration and about $10 in plastic lost…but when you live in a country where the filament costs are nothing compared to the taxes and shipping costs you paid to get one single spool…having a 3D printed hand print fail at any point in the printing process is much more than just a disappointment. It’s expensive.

When asked what the greatest need is for Africa, Umar responded, “e-NABLE devices are an option. The designs themselves being provided for free is something awesome. We are looking at using local materials and techniques to fabricate e-NABLE hands in the future but there is also a great need for prosthetic leg designs.”

“The number of amputees in Africa is the greatest in the world. There are not enough people making prosthetic limbs, even for the people who can afford it…in countries like Mali, Uganda, CAR, Eritrea, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, Liberia and other poor countries with recent histories of war, disease, extreme poverty and terrorism.”

“The need we have is to have access to sales and support from the 3D printing community, have African support centers and probably filament and parts manufacturing so that we can buy without the huge shipping costs.”

Umar goes on to share, “e-NABLE has been an awesome experience and this is only the beginning. 3D printing is the ‘future of the future’ and we are excited to be part of the journey.”

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“Our journey started with a thought that e-NABLE has made a reality. We have a passion for technology and a greater passion for humanity. e-NABLE has allowed these two passions to intersect and we know that as people around the world keep contributing and the community keeps growing…what e-NABLE fabricators, volunteers and enthusiasts will be making…and the impact those things will make in the lives of people around the world in a few years would be something AMAZING.”

I asked Umar – “What is your ultimate goal for your project?”

His response: “Our ultimate goal is to #enableafrica.”

This is our goal too Umar.

Thank you for helping us to see it unfold and for all of your hard work in making it come to fruition.

Are you a 3D printer company or a filament distributor who would like to donate materials or printers to help Umar and others in these countries and many of our other volunteers who could use help in getting parts and materials to use to create devices for the people in those underserved areas? Please email me at jen.owen@enablingthefuture.org – I would love to hear from you!