In Italy, hospitals are struggling to deal with the volume of patients in urgent need of treatment because of the coronavirus. Not only are there not enough intensive care unit beds, but there is also a shortage of essential medical equipment.
When a hospital in Brescia, reportedly near one of the hardest-hit regions in Italy, ran out of a valve that was crucial to ICU operations, a local business stepped in with a 3D printer and saved lives, the 3D Printing Media Network reported.
What the problem was: Patients who suffer severely with the coronavirus end up needing to be on oxygen to survive, hopefully long enough for their immune systems to fight off the infection. In Italy, where there are more urgent patients than there are ventilators, some patients are dying because they can't get that oxygen.
A hospital in Brescia had a specific problem: It ran out of valves for an ICU machine that was needed to sustain people's lives, and the normal supplier would not be able to get them more in a sufficient amount of time.
The solution: Word spread in the area about the shortage and the potential consequences of not getting more of these valves for ventilators, and eventually reached Cristian Fracassi, the founder of Isinnova, a 3D printing company.
Fracassi acted quickly, bringing a 3D printer directly to the hospital. He was able to replicate the design and produce the valve that was needed.
By the next day, the life-saving results were clear, and there is hope for further use of the technology to help with the coronavirus crisis:
On the evening of Saturday 14th (the next day) Massimo reported that "the system works". At the time of writing, 10 patients are accompanied in breathing by a machine that uses a 3D printed valve. As the virus inevitably continues to spread worldwide and breaks supply chains, 3D printers – through people's ingenuity and design abilities – can definitely lend a helping hand. Or valve, or protective gear, or masks, or anything you will need and can't get from your usual supplier.