Volunteers produce 3D-printed valves for life-saving coronavirus treatments

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The Verge | | March 17, 2020

italian 3d printing entrepreneurs - Volunteers produce 3D-printed valves for life-saving coronavirus treatmentsUpdate, March 18th 3:30PM ET: A group of Italian volunteers distributed 3D-printed versions of a vital medical device — but it’s unclear if the original manufacturer threatened a legal crackdown. As we reported earlier, Cristian Fracassi and Alessandro Romaioli used their 3D printer to create unofficial copies of a patented valve, which was in short supply at Italian hospitals. Business Insider Italia quoted Massimo Temporelli, the Italian professor who recruited the pair, saying that the device maker threatened them with an infringement claim.

But in an interview with The Verge, Romaioli denied they’d received threats. He said the company had simply refused to release design files, forcing them to reverse-engineer the valve. “I talked to an operator who told me he couldn’t give me the files, but after that we didn’t receive anything from the original company — so I can assure you we didn’t get any threat,” he said. “They said they couldn’t give us the file because it’s company property, but that’s all.” While earlier reporting said the original valve cost over $10,000, Fracassi also told Fast Company that this number was inaccurate.

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Temporelli gave The Verge a more ambiguous account of the call, which he says he wasn’t directly involved in. “The group we asked for the files refused and said it was illegal” to copy the valves, he said. He stopped short of calling the statement a threat. “Let’s say the risk to be sued exists since they bypassed a patent, but that’s it.”

Neither Romaioli or Temporelli would name the manufacturer involved, but for now, it doesn’t seem to have taken action against the unofficial valve-makers. And they’ve emphasized that both devices serve a purpose: the official product is the better long-term solution, but for now, hospitals can use this cheap alternative to fulfill a sudden, drastic demand.

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