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.
An Italian hospital ran out of ICU valves. A local biz brought a 3D printer to the hospital, redesigned & produced the valves in a few hours.— michal Naka (@michalnaka) March 15, 2020
“At the time of writing, 10 patients are accompanied in breathing by a machine that uses a 3D printed valve.”https://t.co/HjjdYKZvyS
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!
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.
This story from Italy is quite remarkable if true "Italian hospital saves Covid-19 patients lives by 3D printing valves for reanimation devices — The supply chain was broken, people and 3D printing rose to the occasion" https://t.co/Q5SfXxbrkm— The Restart Project (@RestartProject) March 15, 2020
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.
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.