A shortage of ventilator valves in Italy during the COVID-19 outbreak led to 3D-printed replacements
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Spotted: Faced with a desperate lack of valves for the ventilators needed to keep coronavirus patients alive, a 3D-printer company took matters into its own hands. Coronavirus patients in intensive care need the ventilators to help them breathe. They are connected to the ventilator using a plastic valve, which can only be used for a maximum of eight hours before replacement. One hospital in Brescia had 250 patients needing ventilators, as well as a shortage of valves.
A journalist put the hospital in touch with 3D-printing company Isinnova, whose Chief Executive Cristian Fracassi and engineer Alessandro Romaioli raced to the hospital to take a sample valve. Three hours later, they had a prototype. After testing the prototype on a patient and finding it worked, the company began churning out the valves. Ininnova could only print around six valves an hour, so they teamed up with another local company to increase production.
The companies are working for free, but do not plan to release the design publically. This is because the valves really should be produced in a clinical setting, except in the case of a dire emergency.
There were reports that the company which makes the valves had complained about the 3D printing, and threatened an infringement claim. However, it now appears that the company merely reminded the printers that it was illegal to copy the valves. The risk of a lawsuit remains, but given the public health emergency, would likely be unpopular.
3D-printing is developing rapidly, with new innovation coming frequently. At Springwise, we have seen 3D innovations as varied as miniature 3D-printing and biodegradable printing resin made from used fryer oil.