Italian Engineers Transform Snorkeling Gear Into Lifesaving Ventilator Masks

It seems as if many people are stepping up to the plate and doing what they can to help, now that we are dealing with the coronavirus epidemic. One of the issues that seems to be a problem in many countries is a lack of proper medical equipment. Hospitals are being overwhelmed with critical care patients and ventilators are often in short supply. Thanks to Italian engineering firm Isinnova, help may just be on the way.

The company is located in Brescia which is at the epicenter of the country’s coronavirus outbreak. Nearly half of the coronavirus cases in Italy are from their region and the number of patients is overwhelming healthcare facilities. At times, it has been necessary for difficult decisions to be made as to who will get a ventilator. When a former physician of the Gardone Valtrompia Hospital, Dr. Renato Favero, went to Isinnova and shared an idea, they were willing to listen.

Decathlon was contacted and they supplied the CAD drawings of the mask and it wasn’t long before the design was being studied. Engineers at Isinnova designed the “Charlotte valve” which is able to be 3D printed and used to convert the mask.

Chiari Hospital workers in the nearby area tested the prototype and found that it worked quite well with their ventilators. This is just another example of how different sectors can pull together to solve problems when times get tough. Isinnova does say that the valve is not a certified medical product and it should only be used when there is an extreme shortage of necessary medical equipment.

“We are reiterating that the idea is designed for healthcare facilities and wants to help in realization of an emergency mask in the case of a full-blown difficult situation,” Isninnova writes, “where [it] is not possible to in [sic] find official healthcare supplies. Neither the mask nor the link are certified and their use is subject to a situation of mandatory need.”

Since this is not certified medical equipment, it is necessary for a patient to sign a waiver acknowledging that they know they are using an experimental product. Considering the fact that there may be no alternatives, this could be a lifesaving option that is well worth considering.

Photo: Decathlon

In order to keep other firms from producing something similar and raising the prices, the design has been patented by Isinnova. They are planning on making the Charlotte Valve design freely available to any hospital in dire need.

“Our initiative is totally non-profit, we will not obtain any royalties on the idea of ​​the link, nor on the sales of Decathlon masks,” they confirm.

The 3D printing files have been published by Isinnova along with a legally binding patient release form that can be found on their website. They do caution that any users in other countries should check with local laws before they use the design.

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