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Volunteers 3D print valves in Italy to save critical coronavirus patients, valve maker threatens to sue them

When a hospital in Lombardy, Italy, ran out of its supply of valves used in ventilators, two volunteers managed to 3D print them so that dying coronavirus patients could be saved. Now the valve maker is threatening to sue them.

twitter-logo Yasmin Ahmed   New Delhi     Last Updated: March 18, 2020  | 16:38 IST
The Issinova team with 3D-printed valves. (Source: Reuters)

Highlights

  • Two volunteers in Italy 3D screen printed valves used in ventilators after a hospital ran out of stock.
  • The two created these valves with cost of $1 when the market price of valves is around $11000
  • The volunteers now face a lawsuit as the original valve maker has threatened to sue the two men.

An Italian medical manufacturing company has threatened to sue two volunteers for patent infringement after they reportedly 3D printed valves that are used in ventilators. The volunteers 3D screen-printed valves required in a ventilator after a hospital in Lombardy, Italy, ran out of supplies and was in desperate need of valves because they were required for coronavirus patients who were critical.

The originally manufactured valve typically costs around $11000, according to a report by TechDirt. The replicas were created by people working in a startup called Isinnova, in a span of six hours and cost $1. The valves were reportedly used for the treatment of 10 COVID-19 patients, according to a report by Business Insider.

A hospital located outside Chiari in Lombardy, Italy, sent out a distress call through a local newspaper that they had run out of these valves. This ad caught the attention of physicist Massimo Temporelli, who collaborated with the startup volunteers -- Cristian Fracassi and Alessandro Ramaioli to quickly print out the valves using 3D machines.

Initially, the pair asked the original manufacturers to give them the blueprint of the design of the valves so that they could create good copies using the 3D printer. The company, however, refused. It also, reportedly, threatened to sue the volunteers due to patent infringement.

The volunteers, however, went ahead anyway and with the help of physicist Temporelli replicated these valves. Reports says that the Italian minister of technological ionnovation even thanked them.

One of the volunteers, Fracassi in a Facebook post wrote, (The patients) were people in danger of life, and we acted. Period. He also said that they had no intention of profit in this situation. We are not going to use the designs or product beyond the strict need for us to be forced to act, we are not going to spread the drawing.

As of Tuesday Italy has recorded 31,506 cases of coronavirus infection and has suffered 2,503 deaths. Italy's hospitals have been overwhelmed by the number of coronavirus patients, supplies are running low and doctors have been forced to ration beds and equipment like ventilators to patients that they believe have better chance of surviving.

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