Photo of Eric Dijkhuis

Biotechnology & medicine

Eric Dijkhuis

Thanks to 3D printing, his NGO manufactures low-cost prosthetics and tools for people with amputated limbs

Year Honored

Po Paraguay

Latin America

Hails From

Acquiring a prosthetic device to remedy the amputation of a hand, for example, still remains a luxury that most people cannot afford. Therefore, one of the first applications intended for the disruptive 3D technology printing was precisely the creation of much more affordable prostheses.

With this intention, Eric Dijkhuis created in 2014 the NGO Po Paraguay ('Po' means 'hand' in Guaraní). Although his initial goal was prosthetics for hands, in these four years of work, the young man has not stopped his research. His catalog now offers nine different types of prostheses for both hands and legs, as well as accessories, that have helped more than 250 people. Thanks to this initiative, Dijkhuis has become one of the Innovators Under 35 Latin America 2018 of MIT Technology Review.

The vast majority of amputees in Paraguay cannot afford a functional prosthesis, with costs "above 3,000 dollars [more than 2,600 euros] in areas where the monthly salary does not reach 200 dollars [175 euros]," Dijkhuis states. Thanks to 3D printing, low-cost materials, and open source designs, the price of Po Paraguay prosthetics has been reduced to around 150 dollars (about 130 euros).

Although it is possible for the end user to not to have to pay even this reduced price, Dijkhuis considers that it is good if the recipient pays at least a symbolic part. "The fact of acquiring something changes the mentality of people, they go from being people who are being helped to customers who want to be satisfied with the product and participate in the co-creation of it," the young innovator explains.

"The objective of it is to change perceptions in society, to convey that a situation of disability is not an immutable condition, and that with the right tool, functionality can be recovered, just like wearing glasses," Dijkhuis says. For this reason, Po is not limited to producing custom prostheses, the company also manufactures accessories to perform specific activities, such as playing musical instruments and riding a bicycle.

For the founder and director of nodolab and jury member of the jury of Innovators Under 35 Latin America 2018, Fernando Meneses-Carlos, Po Paraguay is "an excellent project with a great social impact".