In early March Italian newspaper Giornale di Brescia helped save lives by connecting the right group of people with a hospital in Chiari that was running low on replacement respirator valves. A Venturi tube connects the respirator to the oxygen cylinder, and the hospital was in desperate need for more as the number of critically ill COVID-19 patients was growing.

With none in stock and the manufacturer overwhelmed with orders, a whirl of calls connected physicist Massimo Temporelli, two young engineers, and 3D printing. Within hours the piece was measured, dimensioned, redesigned, and 3D printed with three techniques – fused deposition modeling, selective laser sintering, and stereolithography (FDM, SLS, SLA) – and engineers Cristian Fracassi and Alessandro Ramaioli were at the hospital with 3D prototypes.

The valves work and to date more than a dozen are in operation saving lives. Everyone involved is being lauded as heroes, which they don’t consider themselves. Now they are being threatened with a patent infringement lawsuit, while others are making false reports comparing the price of the OEM’s valve with the 3D printed one.

Fracassi responded on Facebook:

First of all, it’s true: we received a phone call, we were told that the hospital in Chiari was missing the breathing valves and people were dying. The ordinary route, that of supply of series pieces was not practicable…

What were we supposed to do?

You know in movies when someone is about to fall into the ravine? Usually at that moment the protagonist comes along and throws him a rope, but this rope slides... and time runs. We don’t believe that, at that moment, there are many questions about whether the rope is in accordance with or that it belongs to others. At that moment you only think about saving those who are falling. Then once you’re safe, with panting and adrenaline dropping, you can reason.

Well, we found ourselves in that situation. There were people in danger of life, and we acted. Period…

People were about to die, but we only did our duty. Refusing would not have been a cowardly act, but murderous... We simply want this story to remain only one thing: the community, made of a hospital, a newspaper, a team of professionals, made a race against time and saved lives. That’s it.

With 35,713 confirmed infected Italian civilians and a death toll approaching 3,000 as I write this editorial, I too would 3D print life-saving valves, asking for forgiveness later. - Elizabeth