18 March 2020
A small Italian company has used 3D printing technology to quickly produce oxygen valves to treat some coronavirus patients.
Italy has been battling the world's largest number of cases of the new coronavirus outside of China.
Cristian Fracassi founded and heads the Italian start-up company Isinnova. He told the Reuters news agency that he heard about a shortage of the valves at a hospital near the northern city of Brescia. The area has had an explosion of coronavirus cases.
The devices are called Venturi valves. They are named after 18th century Italian physicist Giovanni Battista. The devices are used to connect patient masks to oxygen equipment. The oxygen masks are used to treat patients suffering from breathing problems.
Fracassi, a 36-year-old engineer, said the hospital was in serious need of the valves. The devices "are impossible to find at the moment," he said. He added that the fast-spreading virus was simply preventing current production from meeting the growing demand.
He decided to offer the services of his company's 3D printing equipment and of his 14 employees to help ease the shortage.
"When we heard about the shortage, we got in touch with the hospital immediately. We printed some prototypes, the hospital tested them and told us they worked," Fracassi said. "So we printed 100 valves and I delivered them personally."
The company's team was able to effectively copy the valves using a 3D printer at the company headquarters in Milan.
The company produces a series of technology products. They include high-tech luggage for Italian designer Gucci and a special paint developed to survive temperatures up to 1,000 degrees Celsius.
Fracassi told Reuters it cost his company very little to produce the plastic valves, which weigh around 20 grams each.
"I'm not going to charge the hospital," he said. "It was the least I could do to help doctors and nurses who work all day long to save human lives."
The company's quick action to help coronavirus patients was praised by Italy's Minister of Innovation Technology Digitalization, Paola Pisano. In a Twitter message, she thanked Fracassi and his employees for supplying the valves. She also published a picture of the freshly made 3D devices.
At least 10 hospital patients had used the new valves as of March 14, reported Massimo Temporelli, the president and co-founder of Italy's FabLab. The organization creates technology-based solutions for companies. It has worked with Isinnova in the past.
In a Facebook post, Fracassi said he did not want to be called a hero or a genius for the actions he took. "Sure, people were going to die, but we only did our duty," he wrote. Fracassi added that refusing to act after learning of the need could have likely resulted in more patient deaths.
In the message, Fracassi said the company does not plan to profit from its valve production and will only use its designs and manufacturing methods to help those currently in need.
He added: "Let's focus on the real heroes, those who save lives, who work 16-hour hospital shifts, and are day and night next to the sick, and praise them."
I'm Bryan Lynn.
Reuters reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English, with additional information coming from Facebook, Twitter and online sources. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
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Words in This Story
printing – n. the process of producing writing, images or other material by using a machine
valve – n. piece of equipment used to open and close the flow of liquid or gas
mask – n. a covering for the face
prototype – n. the first model of something new that can be developed in the future
deliver – v. take goods from one place to another
luggage – n. bags and cases used by travelers
genius – n. a person who is extremely intelligent of very good at doing something
focus – v. to turn one's attention to something
shift – n. a period of work at a workplace