Among the several stories in these days of the coronavirus outbreak here in Italy, there is one worth telling, which happened in the hospital of Brescia, one hour from Milano.
Thursday last week doctors in the intensive care unit were desperate: they were running out of some spare parts of respirators, specific valves that are required for the equipment to work. The supplier ran out of supplies and there were lots of people in the ICU which needed them urgently to breath.
The next day Nunzia Vallini, a reporter of the local newspaper found out and called immediately Massimo Temporelli, well know expert of innovation in Italy. Massimo came up with the idea to produce them with 3D printers, and immediately started to launch help requests on the social media and calling up Fablabs around the country. But given the current lockdown, nobody can move and therefore it was necessary to find a local maker to build them. In the meantime he contacted the equipment producer whom refused to provide the 3D files and even threatened to sue for copyright infringement.
Of course Temporelli and his friends didn’t care less and found Isinnova, a local startup specialized in digital fabrication that re-created the file from scratch and through it’s CEO Cristian Fracassi went into the hospital to install the 3D printers and build the spare parts needed.
Sathurday in the evening Temporelli made the announcement on his Facebook page, the valves are working and 10 people could breathe because of the work of some volunteers and 3D printing technology, in his post he said: “there is something I’ve got to say, many people have criticized us for this, it’s true maybe it’s not the perfect way to go, yes we have no certificates…but this is saving human lives. To all of you I would like to say: we win! Cristian wins, the hospital wins, everybody that believes in what they do, beyond obstacles and criticism, works, hopes and acts without complaining wins. This is humanity that makes history and I’m on their side…always!”
There was an hot debate on social media among makers: the spare parts were made taking into consideration several issues related to the various printing techniques, different materials and everything was done in a sterile environment inside the hospital, working side to side with doctors in the first line of war and following their advice.
Several Fablabs across the country, 3D studios and people that simply have printers offered to make these parts for their local hospitals, Now the discussion is moving to how this could be potentially done. In order for the parts to work there are some delicate technical issues, such as small holes of 0,8 millimeters in diameter, which are fundamental. Right now the production is already going up to 100 parts per day.
Cristian Fracassi commented on Facebook: “I would like to say to those that are criticizing, that suddenly became experts in polymers or say that without CE mark you can’t do nothing to think what it is to be sick in bed, having a respiratory crisis, having the breathing machine right next to the bed and not being able to use it just because it does not have the CE mark. We are in emergency, this is not a normal situation.”
Few days passed since the problem came up and the solution was found. Thanks to the work of volunteers and innovators that did not care about copyright problems. In this story wins Italy. If we keep up on this path we will come out stronger than before.