According to a 2019 research paper, the number of worldwide upper limb amputees in that year was 3 million out of which 2.4 million live in developing countries. Depending on where one lives, getting a functional prosthetic limb could easily go into tens of thousands of dollars and these high costs can especially be prohibitive in developing countries.
Enzo Romero, who was born with one hand, was inspired by the Star Wars character Luke Skywalker to get a prosthetic arm for himself. As a young adult, he moved to Lima to study mechatronic engineering and while doing so, came up with a way to 3D print prosthetic arms using melted plastic bottles! He printed a bright blue arm for himself with this new process that brought down costs significantly.
Romero went on to start LAT Bionics, a company that makes prosthetic arms for people in Peru, a country that has 12,600 upper limb amputees and where the minimum wage is $300. LAT Bionics’ prosthetic arms range between $800 and $2,500 and more than 20 Peruvians who have received one (with another hundred on a waiting list) through LAT Bionics are paying for it through monthly installments. Unlike traditional bespoke limbs that can take two to three months to make, LAT Bionics’ limbs can be completed in just one week.
The prosthetic limbs created by Enzo can hold, pinch, and twist but cannot click a mouse or type on a computer just yet, even though Enzo’s favorite activity to perform with his own prosthetic hand is playing the guitar! Enzo is working on low cost solutions for these enhancements as well. In the future, he plans to expand into Ecuador and Bolivia where amputees have similar barriers to prosthetics.
Watch the video below to learn more about Enzo Romero and the arm he has invented.