Italian Engineers Create Ventilators Using Snorkelling Masks Amid Coronavirus
A pair of Italian engineers have created ventilators out of snorkelling masks to help meet demand amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Cristian Fracassi and Alessandro Romaioli are engineers at start-up firm Isinnova based in Brescia - a city that has been on lockdown for weeks and has seen hundreds of lives lost.
Their innovative pursuits began after they heard that a local hospital didn't have enough valves for its ventilator machines, with the supplier was unable to meet demand.
The pair decided to do something about it, even though their company had never produced anything like it before. They visited the hospital and assessed the crucial piece, which is used to connect the patient's oxygen mask to the respirator.
After a bit of trial and error, they were eventually able to create a working replica using a 3D printing machine.
In a piece for the New York Times, they said: "Our first few attempts didn't succeed, but eventually we made four copies of the prototype on a small 3-D printing machine that we have in our office.
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"While the valve might look like a simple piece of plastic, it's pretty complex; the hole that diffuses the oxygen is less than a millimetre in diameter.
"The day after, we returned to the hospital and gave our valves to a doctor who tested them. They worked and he asked for 100 more. So we went back to the office, and returned to the hospital with 100 more."
The success of their 3D model led to other hospitals in northern Italy asking for copies and Cristian and Alessandro said they are willing to share the model far and wide - though it won't work for every kind of ventilator.
Evidently feeling inspired by the success of their innovation, they have since made another breakthrough using the valves.
They said: "This sparked a second idea: to modify a snorkelling mask already on the market to create a ventilation-assisted mask for hospitals in need of additional equipment, which was successful when the hospital tested it on a patient in need."
You can learn about the snorkelling mask ventilators here.
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