In a perfect example of synergy, a retired physician, a sports goods giant and a startup have come together to convert simple snorkeling gear into an emergency ventilator mask.
Dr Renato Favero, a former head physician at the Gardone Val Trompia hospital in Italy’s Brescia province, had a brainwave about converting Decathlon’s Easybreath snorkeling mask into a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask. Favero got in touch with Isinnova, a Rome-based consultation and research organisation, which was already 3D-printing Venturi ventilator valves to help meet the shortage.
Intrigued by Favero’s idea, the Isinnova team reached out to Decathlon, and the sports goods behemoth pulled out all stops to provide CAD drawings of the mask. Isinnova’s 14-member team took the Easybreath mask apart and found that an additional component would be needed to link it to a ventilator. The additional component—now christened the Charlotte valve—was designed, 3D printed and tested on a war footing.
It was first tested on an unnamed “colleague inside the Chiari Hospital, connected to the ventilator body, and has proven to be correctly working”. The Chiari hospital in Brescia province then tested it on an actual patient. It worked.
Isinnova has stressed that the mask is an “uncertified biomedical device” and can only be used with the patient’s written consent. The company official statement said the device was designed solely to provide critical care during the shortage of certified health care supplies.
To keep predatory manufacturers at bay, Isinnova has patented the Charlotte valve and released all schematics in the public domain. The drawings can be found at https://www.isinnova.it/easy-covid19-eng/
Last heard, Italian defence giant Leonardo has asked its aerostructures and electronics divisions to support Isinnova’s initiative and print Charlotte valves and Venturi valves. The first batch of valves has reportedly been delivered.