We’ve been seeing this story pop up all over the web. A group in Italy has been 3D printing valves that are saving people’s lives. In this case, the valve is a mixing device that is combining room air with pure oxygen before it is delivered to the patient. The hospitals were unable to procure enough to keep up with the need.
Luckily, a group of local makers were able to work with Isonnova in order to get the valve prototyped and printed. The first prototypes were your typical FDM prints, but this is not optimal for this situation. FDM produces materials that are porous and difficult to sterilize, so they had to move to another method.
Another company, Lonati, began producing these valves using laser polymer powder bed based 3d printing, and have now supplied several batches to help save lives.
It is a heart warming story, and it brings to light a few issues that we should probably address.
- Can I print these at home?
You could design and print something, but not these files. They have not been shared. If you did, you would also somehow need to ensure that you were producing something sterile. This is not only a concern for Covid-19, but as a breathing device you could potentially be introducing bacteria or other negative things directly to the lungs of an already weakened person.
- Where are the files?
This is a patented device. They can not share the files. There may be some legal provision where hospitals can request the ability to make them in an emergency, but we do not have that information currently.
- What is the legal standing of something like this in the US?
We simply do not know. We’re looking for a legal expert to give an opinion here, but the US has lots of legal intricacies that may scare man people away from using diy devices.
There are more details and frequent updates on this story on this page.