COVID-19 can seem like a paper tiger, when looking at bare mortality rates. The far greater problem is the increase in fatalities as health systems are stretched to the limit. With thousands of patients presenting all at once, hospitals quickly run out of beds and resources and suddenly, normally survivable conditions become life threatening. One Italian hospital found themselves in such a position, running out of valves for a critical respirator device needed to save their patients. Supplies were running out.
While the article uses the term “reanimation device”, it’s clear we’re talking about respirators here, necessary to keep patients alive during respiratory distress. The valve in question is a plastic part, one which likely needs to be changed over when the device is used with each individual patient to provide a sterile flow of air. After the alarm was raised by Nunzia Vallini, a local journalist, a ring around of the 3D printing community led to a machine being sent down to the hospital and the parts being reproduced. Once proven to work, things were stepped up, with another company stepping in to produce the parts in quantity with a high-quality laser fusion printer.
It’s a great example of 3D printers being used to produce actual useful parts, and of the community coming together to do vital lifesaving work. We’ve seen the technology come in clutch in the medical field before, too. Stay safe out there, and live to hack another day.