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Italian Volunteers Give Away FREE 3D-Printing Valves To Help COVID-19 Patients

Susie Steck

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  • A group of Italian volunteers 3D-printed valves and distributed to hospitals, amidst shortage of the device.
  • An early report stated that they have been threatened and sued by the device manufacturer for reproducing their patented valve.
  • Both parties, however, denied that such incident happened,and they clarified that the volunteers reached out to the company for the valve patents.
  • After they refused to share due to strict company rules, the volunteers customized the valve for 3D-printing.

A group of Italian volunteers led by Christian Fracassi and Alessandro Romaioli used their 3D printer to replicate an emergency valve for ventilators to help coronavirus patients.

The idea came to them when hospitals in Chiari, a small town in Lombardy, started experiencing a shortage of medical equipment, particularly the crucial valve due to the unexpected demand. Chiari is one of the towns that has been badly hit by the deadly outbreak.

Italian journalist Nunzia Vallini connected the Chiari hospital and Fracassi after finding out that the lone original supplier, the Intersurgical, could not provide new supplies of valves immediately. Both Fracassi and Romaioli then volunteered and reached out to Intersurgical but the company refused to share their valve design files, which led the two to reverse engineering its structure.

“I talked to an operator who told me he couldn’t give me the files, but after that we didn’t receive anything from the original company,” Romaioli explained further in an interview with The Verge

Fracassi and Romaioli went to the hospital to see the valve for themselves, and after spending three hours of reversing the structure, they returned with a 3D printed valve prototype, using a “filament extrusion system”.

“They tested it on a patient and they told us that it worked well and so we ran again back to our office and we started to print new valves,” Romaioli said in a BBC report.

The two then collaborated with another local 3D-printing company in Lombardy, Lonati to meet the crucial demand for valves, as Isinnova has only six printers and the prototype takes 1 hour to print. The valve, Fracassi said, was made with thin holes and tubes or 0.8 meters.

Both companies maintained that they are distributing the valves for free and they do not plan to release the design to the public. They only want to help save lives.

With no sleep for two days, a second hospital has already gotten in touch with them, requesting for more valve supplies.

There were reports claiming the manufacturer, Intersurgical, has allegedly threatened on filing a legal case against them but managing director Charles Bellm denied it.

Italy’s confirmed cases of coronavirus has already reached 41,035 with 3,405 deaths, surpassing China’s number of incidents. Italy also reported an additional 627 death in just one day, forcing them to impose a total lockdown.

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