10 Ways 3-D Printing Could Change the World

Low-cost Prosthetic Limbs
Prosthetic, mechanical hands were on display at the 3D Printshow, held at Metropolitan Pavilion, New York in 2014. © Timothy Fadek/Corbis

In 2012, Daniel Omar, a 14-year-old Sudanese boy, was injured when government forces dropped a bomb during an attack on rebels. An American surgeon was able to save Omar's life, but he was left without hands. That is, until Mick Ebeling, chief executive of a research firm called Not Impossible Labs, read a magazine article about the plight of Omar and other Sudanese amputees.

Ebeling set up a lab at a Sudanese hospital and equipped it with 3-D printers, which churned out prosthetic limbs at a cost of just $100 apiece, a fraction of the thousands of dollars that conventionally manufactured ones go for [sources: McCracken, Turner]. Researchers at design firm Autodesk and the University of Toronto are working to develop software that eventually will allow them to scan amputees' bodies and design and print customized limbs that fit their bodies more precisely [source: Woollaston].