Tag Archives: Seattle

3D printing Robohands in conflict zones

Daniel Omar, who lives in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan, lost both his arms at just 14 years of age when a government plane dropped a bomb near his village during the country’s protracted civil war.

“Without hands, I can’t do anything,” Daniel told Time Magazine. “If I could have died, I would have.”

Daniel – who is now 16 – only recently picked up a fork to feed himself for the first time in two years using a prosthetic arm with parts make on an Atmel powered MakerBot Replicator 2. The arm was designed by Mick Ebeling, the CEO of Not Impossible Labs, a California nonprofit devoted to technology for the sake of humanity.

Elliot Kotek, the chief of content for Not Impossible Labs, told the official MakerBot blog that the design for Daniel’s prosthetic arm was adapted from the Robohand, an open-source project designed by Richard van As, a South African woodworker who lost several fingers in an accident, and Ivan Owen, a prop maker in Seattle, Washington.

“Richard had already created the Roboarm and he also had modified the original Robohand so that it was enclosed at the top of the hand. This change will better protect the hands from the elements,” Kotek explained. “Richard is really out to make a difference on a humanitarian level. That spirit rubs off on us.”

Indeed, Not Impossible Labs recently transported two MakerBot Replicator 2 3D printers to Mother of Mercy Hospital, near the border with independent South Sudan. Ebeling then spent five days in Sudan training seven local fabricators to make prosthetics. Using the two 3D printers, hospital staff can produce one prosthetic a week, with each new arm requiring approximately $100 worth of filament, medical orthoplastic, and metal.

“If Project Daniel can surmount these challenges and scale up, it could transform the lives of tens of thousands of amputees in Sudan, and others around the world,” writes MakerBot’s Blake Eskin. “If you are moved to help, Project Daniel would welcome donations. And if you’re not moved yet, watch the video [above] produced by Not Impossible Labs, which shows Daniel’s wounds and his new prosthetics.”

Building 1,000 autonomous vehicles with Atmel-powered boards

A group of DIY Makers based in Seattle say they plan on building a fleet of 1,000 autonomous vehicles – all equipped with Atmel-powered Arduino boards. Project Elcano, which kicked off in 2007, is the brainchild of electrical engineer Tyler Folsom.

According to Popular Science, Folsom’s resume includes work on everything from NASA spacecraft to driverless vehicles for DARPA challenges. The talented Maker recently appeared in a crowd-funding video, as he is hoping to raise enough cash to design a circuit board that can help anybody make any car robotic.

“Elcano’s first prototype is a recumbent tricycle outfitted with five Arduino control boards, a motor, actuators, and a battery,” PopSci writer Dave Mosher explains. “A driver controls the trike with a joystick, or using a semi-autonomous mode, and all of its systems are computer-controlled, i.e. no cables, levers, or other mechanical controls.”

The next step, says Mosher, is for Folsom’s team to help the tricycle drive itself by securing a $3,500 goal to print four custom-designed circuit boards and consolidate a mass of wiring and components on current-gen prototypes. This would allow team members to more easily swap out hardware and rapidly test new electronic steering, path planning, obstacle avoidance, navigation and other on-board systems.

Ultimately, the team hopes that crowdfunding will facilitate the design of a fully autonomous, road-ready electric vehicle system (EV), enabling 1,000 mpg-equivalent efficiency.

“Autonomy has implications not just for safety, but for fuel efficiency. This can cut energy [use] by a factor of 10,” Folsom added.