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Man born with one hand creates himself a new one from recycled plastic bottles

Enzo Romero from Peru was born with one hand; however, this has not held him back in life. Instead, he developed his own hand, which is made completely out of recycled PET plastic bottles. Romero was born in Cusco, a small city of just over 400,000 people in Peru. Growing up, people were used to seeing him excel in life with one hand. Playing basketball, riding a bike and playing guitar were just a few of his pastimes growing up. Despite not feeling at a disadvantage with just one hand, Enzo was inspired to create a new hand after watching Star Wars. In ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ movie, Luke Skywalker receives a prosthetic hand that looks and feels just like a real one.

Enzo went to the capital, Lima, to study mechatronics, so that he could learn to make mechanical limbs. Whilst in Lima he felt for the first time what it was like to be starred at for having a missing limb and hid his missing limb in his hoodie to avoid any pitying stares. Whilst at university he developed his own way of making a limb for himself. Enzo created a 3D printing filament from old plastic bottles, which he used to create his own blue bionic hand.

After graduating from university, Enzo created his own company, LAT Bionics, selling robotic limbs. So far he makes two kinds of bionic hands. One is a more mechanical model for $800 USD, the other uses an electromyographic (EMG) sensor, which controls the hand through tiny muscle movements the wearer makes and sells for $2400 USD. There are currently three million people worldwide who are arm or hand amputees; 2.4 million of those live in developing countries. The average cost for a bionic hand is $40,000 USD and can take months to make. The turnaround for one of Enzo’s hands is one week. So far Enzo has fitted 20 amputees with bionic hands, with many of them losing their hands in workplace accidents. Despite being much cheaper, the cost is still expensive in a country where the average monthly wage is $435. To allow for this Enzo’s clients can pay back the cost of the hands in installments, making it more accessible.

Enzo has been accepted as a TED Fellow, and hopes in the future to expand to neighbouring countries, including Bolivia and Ecuador, where many amputees who cannot afford prosthetic limbs would benefit from his affordable option.

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