Italian engineers who stepped in to make life-saving ventilator parts for a local hospital in need during the coronavirus crisis have shared a new invention: turning snorkelling masks into essential breathing equipment.
Cristian Fracassi and Alessandro Romaioli from Brescia – a northern Italian province badly hit by the pandemic – said the apparatus has been successfully tested on a patient.
The engineers at a 3D printing company said a doctor contacted them with an idea to make emergency ventilator masks using snorkelling equipment following their success at making valves for a hospital running short.
They designed a component to connect a Decathlon snorkelling mask to the breathing machine, according to Isinnova’s website.
The result is a “ventilation-assisted mask for hospitals in need of additional equipment”, the two men wrote in The New York Times.
“We don’t say this to brag, but to show what is possible,” the engineers said.
“In a moment of crisis, and in a moment when commerce globally is shutting down, there are still many do-it-yourself ways of helping the people around you.”
Isinnova, the 3D printing company, said it has got a patent for the new valve for the snorkelling mask, but that it will be free to use.
“It is in our intention that all hospitals in need could use it if necessary,” it said.
Dr Fracassi and Mr Romaioli have already worked to design and print plastic valves – which hook patients up to ventilators to help them breathe – after learning that a local hospital was running short of the essential part.
“We had never made valves before, but we wanted to help,” they said in The New York Times.
It took around three hours to produce the prototype and the 3D-printed valves costs less than €1 (90p) each to make, according to the BBC.
Brescia, a city and province in northern Italy, sits in the country’s worst-hit region by the coronavirus outbreak.
More than 28,000 people have been infected with Covid-19 – a flu-like virus that can turn into pneumonia – in Lombardy to date, according to official figures.
Footage has shown an A&E ward in nearby Bergamo struggling to cope with the influx of patients.
Italy has seen the deadliest outbreak of coronavirus in the world, although the death toll has risen at a slower rate over the past few days.
The country said 602 more people had died on Monday, the smallest increase for four days while the number of new cases also slowed, raising hope that the most aggressive phase of the epidemic may be passing.
Nearly 64,000 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Italy to date, and more than 6,000 people have died.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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