3-D Printed Valves Help Save COVID-19 Patients

With the help of 3D printing experts an Italian hospital creates a twin of a breathing system valve.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created some emergency situations in which health care providers have sought innovative help to save patients. Faced with a shortage of valves used in a resuscitation system to provide patients with oxygen, a Brescia, Italy, hospital turned to FabLab Milan, which specializes in innovative manufacturing solutions, for potential 3D-printed options.

The valve the hospital needed was an integral component of a low-flow Venturi Oxygen mask. Since the coronavirus has caused a massive increase in intensive care needs—especially long-term oxygenation to help patients survive the infection—these reanimation systems are vital for saving lives. The valve shortage quickly became a dire situation for numerous patients in the Brescia hospital.

Although the company is not located near the hospital, FabLab Founder Massimo Temporelli immediately began reaching out to 3D printing companies in the Brescia area for assistance. Isinnova, a 3D printing services company led by Founder and CEO Cristian Fracassi, heeded the call for help.

A 3D twin of a Venturi valve, right. (Image courtesy of Massimo Temporelli.)

A 3D twin of a Venturi valve, right. (Image courtesy of Massimo Temporelli.)

Fracassi and Alessandro Ramaioli brought a 3D printer to the hospital and began working with Temporelli to develop the part. Within six hours of arriving at the hospital, the Isinnova team redesigned and printed a workable twin of the critically needed part. The team’s first valves were created using a filament extrusion system, which heats, extrudes, and cools plastic to create a part.

The supply of additional 3D-printed parts was quickly realized thanks to Lonati SpA. For its valve replicas, the company used a polymer powder bed fusion process, which uses a laser or electron beam to melt and fuse powder together, with a custom polyamide-based material. Since March 14, patients have had breathing assistance thanks to the 3D-printed valve.

As the world continues to navigate and meet the challenges of the coronavirus, additive manufacturing (AM) and other technologies are quickly proving to be reliable alternatives and temporary solutions for some emergency situations. AM’s ability to assist with some supply shortages has resulted in the creation of a COVID-19 AM forum to better connect health care professionals with local AM providers.

For more information about efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic, check out Biotech Companies Hasten Their Work on COVID-19 Vaccine and Testing and Using AI to Monitor COVID-19’s Evolution.