Low-cost, 3D-printed prosthetic devices manufactured in Paraguay are allowing users to recover basic functions they had before their limbs or organs were amputated and even take on new challenges such as playing the violin.
Elias Benitez lost his right hand in a woodworking accident in May 2014 and never thought that just over two years later he would be taking violin classes and handling the instrument’s bow with his prosthetic device.
Fernando Vallese and Eric Dijkhuis, founders and directors of Po Paraguay, a non-profit organization that makes the prostheses, decided to adapt their basic model when Benitez showed up one day with the guitar he had played years before his accident and said he wanted to be able to use it again.
“The first prototype was with Elias … He came here with his guitar … and we made kind of a guitar pick just for him. When he began to play, it was incredible,” Vallese recalled.
A violin was the next challenge for Po Paraguay, which adapted Benitez’s prosthetic device again so it could hold that string instrument’s bow.
Since then, Po Paraguay has focused on developing prosthetic devices that can be adapted to suit aesthetic tastes and users’ practical day-to-day needs.
The prosthetic device maker’s standard model costs less than $200, can be printed in 48 hours and assembled in a week. The prostheses can be quickly repaired if damaged.
Dijkhuis said Po Paraguay’s devices have helped other customers brush their teeth or work in the fields.
He recalled that one boy was able to play goalie again thanks to his prosthetic device, which was adapted and made more resistant after several models had broken.