Isinnova created a 3D model of a valve for a medical ventilator and printed unofficial but life-saving copies after it got a request from the Chiari Hospital, located near the city of Brescia. Asked if the firm could produce ventilators, too, Romaioli, who designed the valve model, said it was a complex machine that was impossible to print in 3D.
"But we have other ideas, and we will launch a new project tomorrow. It is related to the use of a mask as a respirator. We are going to develop how to adapt commercial products to be something that hospitals can use," Romaioli said.
The engineer did not disclose any further details but explained that the company came up with the idea after a hospital told it that respirators would be the next thing to run out after valves.
Isinnova says it does not plan to compete with the official producer or print medical equipment in future, but is ready to help in a critical situation like the COVID-19 crisis. The company notes that the valves it produces are not certified, and therefore can only be used when the need is really urgent.
"We printed them only because it was a question of saving lives. Otherwise we are not interested in producing valves. Now we have other requests from other hospitals. If we can help, we will accept them. We can print valves only if the official producer can’t provide them at the needed time to the hospitals. Otherwise, of course, it’s better for the hospitals to buy them from the main producer," Romaioli said.
Currently, Isinnova prints around 100 valves per day. The firm comprises a team of 14 engineers, five of them working in the office, who use six 3D printers.
The company has already been contacted by similar start-ups from abroad, including in Russia, who asked them to share the 3D-model of the valve.
"We have had some requests from abroad — the US, UK and Russia as well — asking if we need help to print valves also for hospitals abroad. But the first thing we need to do before giving the 3D model to other people is to be sure that the hospital really needs our valves. Because first of all they have to buy from their official suppliers. We need to wait for hospital request before," Romaioli explained, adding that the company was ready to share the model with similar companies located near hospitals in dire need for free.
Lombardy is the Italian region that has been hit hardest by the coronavirus. As of Wednesday, 17,713 cases have been registered in Lombardy, nearly half the national tally of 35,713.