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Manufacturer threatens to sue entrepreneurs who saved coronavirus patients' lives with 3D printed medical equipment parts

They did what they had to do

ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images

When an Italian start-up stepped in to manufacture an essential medical equipment part for a hospital struggling with the coronavirus outbreak, the medical company that normally manufactures the part threatened to sue, according to the Verge.

The backstory: A hospital in Italy ran out of a ventilator valve that was necessary to provide oxygen to patients to help them survive the coronavirus infections. A pair of entrepreneurs in the area heard about the dilemma by way of a reporter, and within a matter of hours they produced more than enough valves using their company's 3D printer, which as of March 14 were being used to sustain at least 10 patients.

Threatened lawsuit: They might have gotten the job done even more quickly, however, if they'd gotten support from the manufacturer — which did not have the capability to produce and deliver more valves in a timely manner.

The entrepreneurs, Cristian Fracassi and Alessandro Ramaioli, reached out to the company and asked if they could get the blueprint for the valve so they could replicate it. The company declined to provide the blueprint and also threatened to sue if they went forward.

So, Fracassi and Ramaioli had to make three different versions of the valve in order to ensure they created the correct one, which they eventually did.

Not trying to profit: Fracassi insists that they are only interested in helping out and saving lives, not in profiting from the part. The valve normally costs $11,000, but they are able to 3D print them for about $1.

"[The patients] were people in danger of life, and we acted. Period," said Fracassi in a Facebook post, the Verge reported. "We have no intention of profit on this situation, we are not going to use the designs or product beyond the strict need for us forced to act, we are not going to spread the drawing."

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