Italian Hospital Saves COVID-19 Patients' Lives Thanks to 3D Printed Valves

Some good news amidst the crisis.
Fabienne Lang
Cristian Fracassi (left), founder of Isinnova, with the 3D printed valve.3D Printing Media Network

When supply chains fall short during a pandemic, lives are at stake. Additive manufacturing is struggling to keep up as the coronavirus numbers keep increasing. However, luckily for some coronavirus patients in Italy, 3D printing came to their rescue. 

A Northern Italian hospital in Brescia, one of the worst hit areas in coronavirus-stricken Italy, ran out of replacement valves for a reanimation device as the supplier had run out and was unable to procure any at short notice. 

This is where a 3D company stepped in and printed replacement valves at short notice, saving lives.


UPDATE  March 23, 5:00 PM EDT: Isinnova turns snorkel into ventilator with 3D-Printed Adaptor

The Italian business Isinnova followed up on its previous success by creating a 3D-printed adapter that converts snorkeling masks into functional C-PAP masks for oxygen therapy — crucial for the recovery of those who've contracted severe cases of COVID-19.

While the new masks haven't yet gone into production, hospital staff testing the device found that the prototype was "proven to be correctly working," and left everyone "enthusiastic about the idea," reports Futurism.

The Italian inventors stressed that their new invention shouldn't be used outside of emergency situations, but patients can still use the uncertified device by signing a legal waiver.

This will surely help fill the gaps in supply left globally as the coronavirus pandemic stretches the world's producers of medical technology to the limit. 

3D printing saving lives

As the coronavirus targets the patient's lungs, oxygenation and intensive care are required for some of the serious hospitalization cases. Being strapped to oxygen allows the patient to live longer so they can fight the virus.

These reanimation devices require different pieces in order to work, and when one such valve started running out because the supplier could not keep up with the high demand, medical workers had to come up with a quick and appropriate solution. 

This is where 3D printing comes into play. A local company called Isinnova jumped right on board by bringing their 3D printer directly to the hospital, redesigning the valve, and printing it out right then and there. And it worked!

Italian Hospital Saves COVID-19 Patients' Lives Thanks to 3D Printed Valves
The original valve on the left, and the 3D printed and redesigned one on the right, Source: 3D Printing Media Network

By the evening of March 14, it was confirmed that 10 patients at the hospital were linked to breathing devices assisted by these 3D printed valves. 

Perhaps 3D printing, along with innovation, fast reactions, and cooperation, could be a solution to broken supply chains as the world battles to keep up with the increasing numbers of coronavirus cases. 

In speaking of cooperation, another local Italian company, Lonati SpA, later joined the cause by printing more of the 3D valves on their machines, providing a solid number for the overrun Italian hospital.

Italian Hospital Saves COVID-19 Patients' Lives Thanks to 3D Printed Valves
The Lonati SpA 3D printed valves, Source: 3D Printing Media Network


Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect a subsequent invention by Isinnova in the 3D-printing sector. An Update section above details how the company 3D-printed adapters to turn a snorkeling mask into a C-PAP mask, which will help patients who have contracted severe cases of COVID-19.

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