Report: Respirator Valve Manufacturer Threatens to Sue over 3D-Printed Copies That Saved Lives

ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images
ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images

Engineer Christian Fracassi saved at least ten lives in a Brescia, Italy, hospital by 3D-printing a vital respirator part. Now the manufacturer of that part is reportedly threatening to sue.

When a hospital in Brescia, northern Italy, needed a valve for their ICU respirators, they began with its original — and as yet unidentified — manufacturer. Even at its exorbitant $11,000 price tag, the part was already going to be difficult to acquire during the novel coronavirus epidemic putting countless victims on life-saving respiratory equipment.

When the company said they were sold out, the hospital launched a desperate search for any way to create a replacement. Unfortunately, the original producer of the valve was reportedly unwilling to share a blueprint to produce it independently.

Giornale di Brescia, editor of a local newspaper, joined tech expert Massimo Temporelli to locate a 3D printer that would allow them a fighting chance to make something to bridge the gap. They found what they needed courtesy of an engineer by the name of Christian Fracassi.

The risk, however, was personal. When contacted, the valve’s manufacturer reportedly threatened to sue Fracassi if he produced the part on his own — even in these dire circumstances. Fracassi counted the cost against the lives hanging in the balance and did it anyway.

Within hours, the engineer used one of the valves as a reference to design and print the needed parts, which immediately went to keeping at least ten patients in the hospital alive. The cost? Just $1 — to be clear, yes, that is $10,999 cheaper.

Fracassi, fearing further legal repercussions, is afraid to spread his design further. So far, the unidentified company at the crux of this life and death matter has remained silent.

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