Italian engineers are making ventilators out of snorkelling equipment

Italian engineers are making ventilators out of snorkelling equipment

A pair of Italian engineers have gone viral on social media this week, after ingeniously fashioning some impromptu ventilators out of snorkels to give to people in need.

Cristian Fracassi and Alessandro Romaioli, two engineers from the Brescia-based startup company Isinnova, recently learned that their local hospital was running out of ventilators due to the high influx of coronavirus patients flooding the wards.

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Offering to help, Fracassi and Romanioli visited the hospital and studied the relevant respiratory equipment, where they learned that the main issue over the lack of ventilators was down to one crucial piece used to connect the oxygen mask to the respirator.

Using a 3D printing machine, they were eventually able to make the piece themselves, and then cobbled together the rest of the apparatus using parts salvaged from ordinary plastic snorkels.

Speaking to the New York Times in a later interview, Fracassi and Romanioli stated: "Our first few attempts didn't succeed, but eventually we made four copies of the prototype on a small 3-D printing machine that we have in our office. While the valve might look like a simple piece of plastic, it's pretty complex; the hole that diffuses the oxygen is less than a millimeter in diameter."

They continued: "The day after, we returned to the hospital and gave our valves to a doctor who tested them. They worked and he asked for 100 more. So we went back to the office, and returned to the hospital with 100 more."

They added: "This sparked a second idea: to modify a snorkeling mask already on the market to create a ventilation-assisted mask for hospitals in need of additional equipment, which was successful when the hospital tested it on a patient in need."

At the time of writing, there have now been 392,331 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across 114 countries worldwide, and a total of 17,156 deaths, according to John Hopkins University. Of these, 63,927 have occurred in Italy, and 6,077 people have died there.