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Italian Innovation Sees Scuba Masks Used As Ventilator Masks

Ryan Ford 26 Mar 2020

If necessity is the mother of invention, she's going to be busy for a while, because seldom has the world seen such need for invention and innovation as it does right now.

Italy in particular has seen its medical resources stretched to the max due to its COVID-19 outbreak, but engineers there have been stepping up to the plate to create solutions for their shortfalls.

First, it was a shortage of ventilator valves.

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Ventilators are crucial to the coronavirus fight. As the disease overwhelms a patient's lungs, the ventilators do the breathing for them. But the valves that attach oxygen masks to ventilators can only be used for about eight hours before they have to be switched out for a new one.

One hospital in Northern Italy was on the verge of running out of the valves, so engineers with Isinnova started 3D printing them. In 24 hours, they had churned out 100 of them, and they quickly passed along what info they had to other companies with 3D printing capacity to help out with the needed supplies.

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Now, Isinnova's engineers have come through with another big innovation.

Isinnova

It's not just the ventilator valves that are in dire need in Italy, but the masks as well. One doctor had an idea for how to overcome that shortage: scuba masks. So, Dr. Renato Favero got in touch with Isinnova to find out if there was a way to make them work with ventilators.

"Doctor Favero shared with us an idea to fix the possible shortage of hospital C-PAP masks for sub-intensive therapy, which is emerging as a concrete problem linked to the spread of Covid-19," a company blog post reads. "It’s the construction of an emergency ventilator mask, realized by adjusting a snorkeling mask already available on the market."

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French sports gear maker Decathlon already had an ideal mask on the market.

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It covers the whole face, not just the eyes and nose, making it an ideal candidate. Isinnova contacted Decathlon, who were "immediately willing to cooperate" and sent the company all the data they would need.

Within a matter of hours, Isinnova's engineers had worked up and 3D printed an adapter that would allow the mask to attach to a ventilator.

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The important question is, does it work?

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Well, the team took their prototype down to Chiara Hospital and hooked it up to a ventilator and it appeared to work just fine.

"The hospital itself was enthusiastic about the idea and decided to test the device on a patient in need. The testing was successful," Isinnova's blog post reads.

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There is one important caveat at this point, however.

The adapted scuba mask isn't intended to be used instead of the existing ventilator masks, but only as a last resort.

"Neither the mask nor the link are certified and their use is subject to a situation of mandatory need," Isinnova cautions, and anybody using it needs to sign off first.

Isinnova did go ahead and rush out a patent for their valve adapter, but they added that they're sharing it around for free to any 3D printing companies who want to use it.

h/t: Futurism, The Independent

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