Canadian Plastics

Italian startup 3D-prints medical valves to help COVID-19 patients

The valves were printed when the regular supplier wasn’t able to provide the devices to a hospital in Brescia, northern Italy, in time to meet sudden high demand.

March 20, 2020   Canadian Plastics

Some of the 3D printed valves used to connect oxygen masks to respirators. Photo Credit: Cristian Fracassi/Issinova/Facebook

Desperate times call for desperate measures – and times are indeed desperate in Italy right now, where the total number of deaths from the coronavirus reached 4,032 as of March 20, and soldiers are being drafted to help enforce a lockdown throughout the nation.

Adding to the crisis, hospitals are filling up to the point that they’re running out of room and beds for patients, as well as running out of materials and tools to help anyone infected.

And for one hospital in Brescia, northern Italy, the situation became particularly deadly. The Bresica region of Italy has been hit hard by Covid-19, and its hospital has approximately 250 coronavirus patients requiring breathing machines. But when the original supplier was unable to meet the sudden high demand, it ran out of the respiratory valves needed to connect intensive care patients to the ventilators.

Local officials contacted Cristian Fracassi, founder and CEO of Brescia-based 3D printing startup firm Issinova. Fracassi visited the hospital in person to inspect the valves, and then 3D-printed a prototype in six hours on-site, using a filament extrusion system. The new respiratory valve was tested on a patient and, when it proved to meet all requirements, Isinnova teamed up with LonatiSpA, another local 3D manufacturing company, to mass produce the valves.

Issinova’s six in-house 3D printers and Lonati’s SLS 3D printer were able to print 100 respirator valves in 24 hours at the rate of one device per hour. The valves are currently in use in the Brescian hospital.


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