snorkeling mask and charlotte valve

Italian Engineers Turn Snorkeling Masks into Emergency Ventilator Masks

With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic affecting many of Earth’s nations, healthcare systems throughout the world have been knocked off balance. Coronavirus victims face a risk of pneumonia and acute respiratory syndrome, and ventilators are a critical care tool for patients with severe cases of coronavirus. The shortage of breathing devices has prompted nations worldwide to come up with innovative solutions. A team of doctors and engineers from Italy, one of the worst affected countries by the COVID-19 outbreak, has come up with a crafty invention designed to meet the demands of the pandemic.

Start-up 3D printer business Institute of Studies for the Integration of Systems (Isinnova), based in Lombardy – Italy’s hardest-hit region, has constructed an emergency ventilator from a snorkeling mask and 3D-printed valves that connect the mask to an oxygen tube. The prototype has already been successfully tested on one of the team members and has proven to function correctly.

The idea came from head physician Doctor Renato Favero of the Gardone Valtrompia Hospital. Isinnova had already been manufacturing 3D-printed replacement valves for ventilators when Dr. Favero shared the idea of adjusting a snorkeling mask to work as an emergency ventilator mask. Isinnova reached out to French sporting goods retailer Decathlon, which was quick to supply the CAD drawing for their “Easybreath” snorkeling mask.

The inventors then designed a link, which they named Charlotte valve, to guarantee the connection to the ventilator. Isinnova has patented the link valve to prevent any speculation on the price, but the patent will remain free to use for all hospitals dealing with a shortage of emergency ventilators. However, it is worth noting that the Charlotte valve is not a certified biomedical device. Those located outside Italy should evaluate the compliance of the device to their local laws.

The file for the realization of the Charlotte valve link in 3D printing is available for download on Isinnova’s website along with recommendations for print settings. The company warns those who wish to replicate the components to collaborate with specialized technical personnel for the realization of the valves that the device should be used only under the supervision of a doctor.

We are reiterating that the idea is designed for healthcare facilities and wants to help in realization of an emergency mask in the case of a full-blown difficult situation, where is not possible to in find official healthcare supplies,” states Isinnova

As of March 26, 2020, it is not known if the converted snorkeling mask is actually used by doctors in hospitals. Decathlon took to Twitter on Wednesday to announce that the company has yet to receive confirmation from health institutions that the solution works and is used. Decathlon further notes that they will keep the public informed on the situation once the hospitals confirm that the device is indeed functioning.

Image credits: Isinnova

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