Italian Engineers Turn Snorkeling Masks into Life-Saving Ventilators

The coronavirus took us by surprise, and no one expected that something like this can happen to the human race. The whole world is faced with deficit of surgical masks and protective medicinal wear for the people who mostly need it, the medical personnel. Nowadays they are the heroes in the whole world who need to face with the virus face to face and help all those infected people.

Therefore, many innovators and companies are trying really hard to develop creative solutions to help the patients and the medical personnel.

The engineers at ISINNOVA teamed up with Decathlon and medical experts to develop life-saving ventilators which are currently at the highest demand. There is not enough of this medical equipment, but some creative and effective solutions turned up. Namely, the team of engineers has managed to turn full-face snorkeling masks into masks that can be hooked up to medical breathing machines. This alternative for ventilators can be of great assistance in hospitals where there are not enough ventilators.

The first country in Europe that was severely impacted by the COVID-19 virus faced with the lack of medical equipment. They had plenty of patients but not a sufficient number of ventilators. Doctors desperately needed them to help their patients, so they tried to find some alternatives.

Innovators turn snorkeling masks into ventilation masks

Dr. Renato Favero, former head physician at the Gardone Valtrompia Hospital, approached the engineers Cristian Fracassi and Alessandro Romaioli who worked in an engineering company, ISINNOVA, in Brescia. This city is located in Lombardy that had the highest number of infected patients and a large number of them did not succeed in the fight against the virus. Due to the peak of the virus there weren’t enough masks highly needed in sub-intensive therapy, so the idea of Dr. Favero to modify readily-available scuba diver masks into masks that can be connected to a ventilating machine was welcomed by everyone.

ISINNOVA reported the idea of Dr. Favero on their website:

“Doctor Favero shared with us an idea to fix the possible shortage of hospital C-PAP masks for sub-intensive therapy, which is emerging as a concrete problem linked to the spread of Covid-19. It’s the construction of an emergency ventilator mask, realized by adjusting a snorkeling mask already available on the market.”

ISINNOVA worked together with Decathlon, a sporting goods retailer that is also a supplier of the Easybreath snorkeling mask and with the medical experts in the creation of the alternative masks.

Dr. Fracassi and Mr. Romaioli helped in this creation with their 3D printed plastic valves that connect the mask and the breathing machine tubes. ISINNOVA studied and modified the CAD designs, including the design and 3D printing of the Charlotte and Dave valves. The prototype that they have created was first tested on one of their colleagues inside Chiari Hospital, and the results were positive. After that, the mask was tested on one patient and the new modified ventilation mask once again positively passed the test.

Fracassai and Romaioli stated the following:

“The hospital itself was enthusiastic about the idea and decided to test the device on a patient in need. The testing was successful.

We don’t say this to brag, but to show what is possible. In a moment of crisis, and in a moment when commerce globally is shutting down, there are still many do-it-yourself ways of helping the people around you.”

They made their blueprints and instructions available online, and free of charge. They uploaded a 5-step video tutorial onto YouTube detailing the assembly, so that other hospitals can build and use them, too.

The Easybreath snorkeling masks from Decathlon can be purchased for €25 (four times less than proper C-PAP masks), and the 3D print of the valves can be also done easily. The needed parts for the masks are ready and only the assembly is left and they can be used immediately by a COVID-19 patient. Yet, the printing and assembling of masks should be performed only by skilled experts. The valve has been patented to prevent any speculation on pricing.

However, some snorkeling experts state that these full-face masks are with questionable safety as a result of the excess carbon dioxide that builds up inside of them. In times of deficit and extreme need of their usage these masks will do the job, but there is also other problem, the lack of ventilators.

ISINNOVA emphasized that these masks should be used if there is no other option as they are not certified and this also applies for the link valves.

In the video below you will see the proper assembling of the mask: