Bolivian toymaker restores limbs, dignity with 3D-printing

LA PAZ, Jan 21 — As a child rising up in poverty in rural Bolivia, Roly Mamani constructed his personal toys. Now a 34-year-old engineer, he 3D prints limbs for Indigenous compatriots scarred by life-changing accidents.

Mamani funds the endeavor with the cash he makes from promoting robotic toys he makes — his different ardour, which, after constructing his first remote-controlled toy automobile as a baby, he by no means deserted.

Surrounded by prostheses, crops and 3D-printed dinosaurs in his research, Mamani pores over an arm he’s devising for a boy who misplaced his on account of an electrical surge.


It’s his function, the engineer instructed AFP, “to enhance individuals’s high quality of life.”

The son of small-scale farmers, Mamani grew up in Achocalla, a group nestled between two lagoons some 15 kilometres north of the capital La Paz, verdant with pasture, greens and tubers.

With no cash for toys, he began constructing his personal play vehicles from plastic and cardboard at a younger age, upgrading in major college to a motorised model.


Earlier than getting into public college, Mamani labored for 2 years at an vehicle workshop the place he was uncovered to “the primary actual machines I ever noticed.”

Ten years in the past, he opened his personal workshop in Achocalla to construct robotic toys and academic aids.

“You can say I’ve all of the toys I need now,” he mentioned.

Then all the things modified when he heard a few rural man with out fingers and thought to himself: “I could make them for him.”

In 2018, the toymaker of Achocalla got down to discover life-improving options for different disfigured Bolivians along with his 3D printers.

“Science is sort of a superpower. Robotics is a pattern, but when it doesn’t deal with vital issues, it doesn’t imply something,” he mused.

Greater than 400 made

Towards the background noise of printers at work, Mamani instructed AFP he can create six items a month.

Since 2018, “we’ve got made greater than 400 e,” he mentioned.

Half had been delivered freed from cost or at the price of manufacturing, funded by his robotics gross sales.

On common, a 3D-printed prosthesis in Bolivia prices about US$1,500 (RM7,071), greater than 5 occasions the minimal wage.

A purposeful prosthesis — the kind that permits sure actions — can value as a lot as US$30,000.

But the general public well being system doesn’t cowl prosthetics, in a rustic the place some 36,100 individuals have bodily and mobility issues, in accordance with the state-aligned Nationwide Committee of Individuals with Disabilities.

Mamani himself chooses the recipients of his donations from the numerous requests he receives, together with from overseas.

“The individuals in essentially the most want are those that work precarious jobs with out security, which is why they’ve these accidents by which they lose a limb,” he mentioned.

‘A blessing’

Considered one of their beneficiaries is 59-year-old Pablo Matha, who misplaced his imaginative and prescient and proper hand seven years in the past in a mining accident involving dynamite.

After that, “I went out every single day to ask for some cash (on the road.) That’s the place my pal Roly and his brother discovered me,” Matha instructed AFP.

Mamani’s brother Juan Carlos is a physiotherapist, who helps with the sufferers’ bodily rehabilitation.

Matha mentioned the prosthesis helped him regain his self-respect. He now performs the guitar to earn a residing.

He mentioned he used to “really feel individuals taking a look at me and laughing. However now that I’ve the prosthesis… typically I really feel that I’m like every bizarre individual.”

Marco Antonio Nina, 26, was one other recipient. As a young person, engaged on a masonry venture, an electrical shock severed his left arm and stunted the correct one.

“I prefer to sing, however with out the prosthesis it damage to carry the microphone… Now with this, it’s a blessing,” he mentioned.

Mamani needs to make use of the popularity he has gained for his work — he has been awarded a US robotics scholarship — to arrange a rehabilitation centre.

“I wish to generate my very own know-how, I’ve to enhance,” he mentioned. — ETX Studio

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