Issinova, the Italian 3D printing company that used digital fabrication to save the day at an Italian hospital, has come up with another brilliant innovation. The doctor they previously collaborated with, Dr. Renato 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: it's the construction of an emergency ventilator mask, realized by adjusting a snorkeling mask already available on the market."
Decathlon's standard Easybreath snorkeling mask
Issinova studied the idea and reached out to sporting goods company Decathlon, who makes the Easybreath snorkeling masks in question. Unlike with the ventilator manufacturer, who was unable to share the CAD files of their part due to medical regulations, Decathlon "was immediately willing to cooperate by providing the CAD drawing of the mask we had identified. The product was dismantled, studied, and the changes to be made were evaluated. A new component was then designed to guarantee the connection to the ventilator. We called the link Charlotte valve, and we quickly printed it using 3D printing."
Easybreath with Issinova's 3D-printed "Charlotte" valve
The prototype was tested at the hospital and deemed a success. Issinova then patented their connecting "Charlotte" valve, not to profit off of it, but to be sure the design is kept free. "We clarify that the patent will remain free to use, because it is in our intention that all hospitals in need could use it if necessary," they write.
About that "if necessary" bit: Issinova stresses that the hacked scuba mask is not a certified biomedical device. This is an Oh-shit-the-patient's-gonna-die-because-we-don't-have-any-actual-masks device. Issinova designed their component so that hospitals in short supply could buy the off-the-shelf scuba mask, 3D print the connecting valve and use it to save someone's life.
In the coming weeks, we'll likely need to see more innovation like this. If you've got access to rapid prototyping and some design skills, please consider reaching out to your local hospital to see what they might need--and think about what other industries you might be able to connect them to. The snorkeling connection was a great insight.