Update: The Verge now reports that the company that originally made the valves, Intersurgical, didn’t threaten the volunteers. Temporelli gave an “ambiguous” account of the call he had with the medical supply company, saying the company informed him it was illegal to provide them the blueprints for the valves. Romaioli said they were not threatened.
Also, earlier reports that the original valves cost more than $10,000 are also now disputed.
Intersurgical released a statement to The Verge denying any threat:
Just to confirm that recent reports from Italy are totally incorrect, we were contacted at the end of last week for manufacturing details of a valve accessory but could not supply these due to medical manufacturing regulations, we have categorically not threatened to sue anyone involved. The valve is an accessory supplied as part of a CPAP Hood system which alone costs a few euros.
Our Italian company has been doing their utmost to supply the hospitals at this time and have been supplying these free of charge in many cases to use with the CPAP Hoods. It is very disappointing that in the current climate this incorrect information is circulating, our focus as a company is to be able to supply the hospitals that require these and many other vital products and we are making every effort to ensure we can do so.
Romaioli and Temporelli also told the outlet that both their product and Intersurgical’s serve a purpose and that the 3D-printed valves aren’t the long-term solutions.
Original article, edited to remove information about the alleged threat:
Italy was already in the midst of their coronavirus crisis when a new fear set in: There weren’t enough ventilator valves at one of the country’s hospitals to treat the patients suffering the most. Even worse, the medical supply company that typically provided those valves told the hospital that it couldn’t produce the new valves in time to help the patients due to the crisis creating increased demand for the product.
The hospital took to Giornale di Brescia, an Italian newspaper, and mentioned the shortage, according to Business Insider. Massimo Temporelli, the founder of local startup FabLab, noticed the ad, and decided to take action.
“FabLab is an Italian company that specializes in innovative manufacturing solutions. However, the restrictions on movement imposed in Italy prevented Temporelli himself — who is based in Milan — from handling the matter,” Business Insider reported. “After searching around, the physicist connected with startup Isinnova, which is based in Brescia — near Chiari, where the hospital is located — and has a 3D printer.”
Two engineers with Isinnova – Cristian Fracassi and Alessandro Ramaioli – worked with Temporelli to start 3D-printing the valves within 6 hours. The team was able to design a valve that worked properly and sent it to the hospital, which began successfully using it to treat patients.
The Verge is now reporting that Fracassi and Ramaioli had asked the medical supply company for blueprints of the valves so they could quickly and easily make replicas. Fracassi and Ramaioli went ahead with their plans by measuring the valves and creating three different versions.
Temporelli said on Facebook that the valves created by Fracassi and Ramaioli have been used by 10 patients.
“[The patients] were people in danger of life, and we acted. Period,” Fracassi wrote, adding that “we have no intention of profit on this situation, we are not going to use the designs or product beyond the strict need for us forced to act, we are not going to spread the drawing.”
Fracassi also used the post to set the record straight on what has been reported by the media regarding the valves, including the purported low cost of the valves they created:
First of all, it’s true: we received a call, we were told that the valves for the respirators were missing in the Chiari hospital and people were dying. The ordinary way, that of supplying standard parts, was not practicable for a simple reason of time.
What were we supposed to do?
Do you know in the movies when someone is about to fall into the ravine? Usually at that moment the protagonist arrives and throws him a rope, but this rope is frayed … and time runs. We do not believe that at that moment there are many questions about whether the rope is up to standard, or that it belongs to others. At that moment one thinks only of saving who is falling. Then, once safe, with the breath and the adrenaline that falls, you can reason.
Here, we found ourselves in that situation. There were people in danger of life, and we acted. Point.
Now, with a cold mind, let’s reason.
First, don’t call us, as some have done, heroes. Sure, people were going to die, but we only did our duty. In fact, refusing would not have been a cowardly but a murderous act. Far be it from us.
Do not call us, as some have done, geniuses. If anything, the genius is Venturi, who has identified the physical principle that we have limited ourselves to applying, as any other engineer would have done. There is no genius in the piece that everyone is talking about, there is only the application of a physical principle.
But now also allow us to silence words that are flying beyond our intentions, and beyond our control: we have no intention of making a profit on this situation, we are not going to use the designs or the product beyond the strict need that we forced to act, we have no intention of spreading the design. But not only: in this time when public opinion is very susceptible, we ask you not to throw yourself at anyone. If we have acted quickly, it is only because with 3D printers you can quickly try a small production which, on the other hand, on the industrial scale would be impossible. And finally, let us also say that certain figures that we see turn are absolutely not true: we do not want to go into detail, because the cost of a piece is not that of the weight of a small pile of plastic: professionals time, costs of materials, energy etc. come into play. In short, the cost is something complex, but let us keep the secret, and the right does not know what the left does.
We simply wish that only one thing remained of this story: the community, made up of a hospital, a newspaper, a team of professionals, ran against time and saved lives. That’s all.
The rest – rights, certifications, costs and controversies – should remain silent in the face of the undeniable superiority of the sacred right to life. If you don’t share, don’t ask us, but the people who – thank God – are still breathing.