Italian Engineers Turn Scuba Gear Into Life-Saving Ventilators


While China seems to have dealt with the spread of COVID-19 within its borders, countries like Italy and the US have become the new hot spots for the coronavirus. And as the number of those infected continues to rise, so does the demand for qualified specialists and necessary equipment.

In response to this deficit, engineers at ISINNOVA have taken a genius step and teamed up with Decathlon and medical experts to convert full-face snorkeling masks into masks that can be hooked up to medical breathing machines that help those infected with the COVID-19 virus.

Medical systems around the world are in crisis, and when there’s no medical equipment, people seek alternatives

Image credits: ISINNOVA

Engineers Cristian Fracassi and Alessandro Romaiol of ISINNOVA, an Italian engineering company, were approached by Dr. Renato Favero, former head physician at the Gardone Valtrompia Hospital, with an idea to help mitigate the current shortage of C-PAP masks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The masks are used by hospitals in sub-intensive therapy. The need for these masks spiked when COVID-19 reached Italy earlier this year. Since these masks are now in short supply, Dr. Favero suggested modifying readily-available scuba diver masks into masks that can be connected to a ventilating machine.

Italian engineers found a way to convert snorkeling masks into ventilation masks that hospitals desperately need

Image credits: Decathlon

Italian engineering company ISINNOVA collaborated with Decathlon and medical experts to create and test it

Image credits: FabFactory

It wasn’t long until Decathlon, a sporting goods retailer, was included in the project as an ideator, producer, and supplier of the Easybreath snorkeling mask. ISINNOVA quickly got a hold of the CAD designs, studied them, and made the necessary modifications, including the design and 3D printing of the Charlotte and Dave valves—the connecting part between the mask and the breathing machine tubes.

On their website, ISINNOVA wrote that the prototype was tested on one of their colleagues inside Chiari Hospital and the test was a success. The hospital itself also tested the device on a patient in need and the new modified ventilation mask passed the test with flying colors.

Blueprints were made available for free so that hospitals could make their own on demand in emergencies

Image credits: ISINNOVA

A 5-step video tutorial was also uploaded onto YouTube detailing the assembly

Image credits: Cristian Fracassi

The engineering company made all of the blueprints and instructions available online free of charge for hospitals to build and be used based on their need. While C-PAP masks start at around €100, hospitals will be able to buy the Easybreath snorkeling masks from Decathlon for €25 and 3D print the valves on their own, so it will not only make it easier to solve the mask crisis, but it will also be an inexpensive solution.

Image credits: Cristian Fracassi

There is a drawback, though, as full face masks are considered dangerous by some snorkeling experts due to the fact that there is a risk of excess carbon dioxide building up inside the mask if improper air outtake is provided. Also, despite this idea solving the issue of masks, there will still be a problem with having enough ventilators to go around.

ISINNOVA noted that the masks should be used if there is no other option as there is no certification for them

Image credits: Cristian Fracassi

ISINNOVA did note that neither the mask, nor the link valves are certified and should thus be used only on the basis of absolute necessity. According to the statement on their website, they stress that this idea is designed for healthcare facilities in cases of full-blown difficult situations where it is not possible to find official healthcare supplies.

Image credits: Cristian Fracassi

This setup is estimated to cost around €25, four times less than proper C-PAP masks

Image credits: Cristian Fracassi

Only skilled specialists should be allowed to print and assemble these masks. ISINNOVA also patented the valve to prevent any speculation on pricing. All of the instructions and needed files are provided on ISINNOVA’s website.

Image credits: Cristian Fracassi

What are your thoughts on this? Know of any other medical hacks that people have done to help the fight against COVID-19? Let us know in the comments section below!

Here is the full video explaining how the mask should be constructed

Image credits: Cristian Fracassi

Here’s how the internet reacted to this ingenious innovation



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