How 3D printing helped save patients’ lives in an Italian hospital amid coronavirus crisis

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on March 17, 2020 Published on March 17, 2020


A 3D-printer company in Italy on Friday designed and printed 100 life-saving respirator valves in a day for a hospital in Italy that had run out of original valves amid the growing number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country.

The valve connects intensive care patients to respiratory machines which help them breathe.

A hospital in one of Italy’s most impacted regions, Brescia which had 250 coronavirus patients in intensive care had run out of these valves, which are originally designed to function for eight hours at a time. Italian journalist Nunzia Vallini had then put the hospital in touch with 3D printing company Isinnova’s CEO Cristian Fracassi after discovering that the original supplier was unable to supply new valves in time with the help of Massimo Temporelli, founder of The FabLab in Milan.

Fracassi had then visited the hospital within an hour to examine the valves and designed a prototype of the same within three hours.

Temporelli later shared the whole incident on his Facebook profile.

Temporelli wrote: “Early this morning Nunzia Vallini, the editor of the Giornale di Brescia, woke me up on the phone, with whom I have been collaborating for some years for the dissemination in Industry 4.0 culture schools (including 3D printing). Her voice was agitated, she apologized and told me it was an urgency: in a hospital in Brescia the valves for an intensive care instrument were running out and the supplier could not provide them in a short time. It would have been an incredible damage, some people might have lost their lives. So he asked me: Is it possible to 3D print this valve? A thousand rounds of phone calls to the fablabs of Milan and Brescia and then fortunately a company in the area (heroic Cristian Fracassi !) Brought a 3d printer directly to the hospital and in a few hours he redesigned and then produced the missing piece . How beautiful are the intuitions of humans, what beauty is resourcefulness, what beauty is technology! Viva! PS: if the tests work, as we all hope, and if it serves other hospitals we can organize ourselves to print them on request, using the network of Italian Labs”

He later shared an update on the situation saying that the 3D printed valves had been tested on patients and had worked well.

“The system works! Currently 10 patients are accompanied in breathing by a machine with a 3d printed valve. I must, indeed we must make a big applause to Eng. Cristian Fracassi who with his team designed and printed the missing piece 3d. Everything at the speed of light. You are heroes! I'm happy…” he wrote on the social media platform.

The 3D-printed version cost less than €1 (90p) each to produce according to a BBC report.

The company producing equipment is working for free. It will, however, not make the design public as of now as it is not easy to print and should be “produced in a clinical way,” the report said.

Italy has reported over 23,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with over 2,100 deaths, according to media reports.


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Published on March 17, 2020
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