The young engineer doesn't want to take any credit and instead considers frontline doctors as real heroes.
Cristian Fracassi, a 36-year-old engineer, was a godsend for a hospital in Brescia, one of the worst coronavirus-hit cities in northern Italy. The hospital is at the frontline of treating patients with coronavirus and last Friday it ran out of ventilator valves that connect facemasks with oxygen machines. Fracass, who runs a 3D printing startup, stepped in with help. He produced 100 3D printed valves and donated them to the hospital, bringing respite to many patients who were struggling to breathe.
TRT World caught up with Fracassi for a quick interview.
TRT WORLD: How did you hear about the shortage of valves at the hospital? And how did you respond?
CRISTIAN FRACASSI: On Friday morning, the newspaper director of my city Brescia called me and told me that one hospital needs my help because they have some ventilation machines with different masks but they did not have the valves that connect the masks with the machine.
They had a lot of patients with COVID-19 and they couldn't give them oxygen. So we first tried to call a factory that produces such valves but they do not have any at the moment.
The hospital asked if I could 3D print the valves. So I went to the hospital, took a sample piece and measured it. After that we 3D printed four pieces.
We went to the hospital the next day on Saturday. The doctors tried the valve and after testing four pieces, one doctor told me: "Okay, it works. Give me 100 more." So we came back home and printed 95 valves in 24 hours. The next day we gave them 100 pieces. So now they have 100 pieces that work. They are happy. So am I.
How is 3D printing contributing to the medical field?
CF: The biggest advantage of 3D printing is that it's very fast. In a very short time, you can produce what you want. The downside thing about 3D printing is that the original product is still better than its 3D clone/replica.
So if you run into a problem use the original one. If you are in an emergency, use the 3D alternative.
But give it a try. When you are in an emergency situation, having an option (a 3D printed valve) offers you a chance.
How are you dealing with the lockdown in your region?
CF: My city is Brescia. Most companies are closed. It is one of the worst-hit cities with COVID-19. In fact, all the factories are closed. Probably mine is one of the few companies that is still open. But we are working for hospitals and trying to save lives.
Your story has been widely shared across social media. Has this solicited any requests from other hospitals?
CF: I had a lot of requests from all over the world. But only one hospital has the same kind of valve. Different ventilator machines need different masks, so valves are different too.
So one other hospital has asked for 50 valves. We are discussing with the director of the hospital what is the best way to produce them.
[Fracassi doesn't want to take any credit for saving many lives.]
CF: The doctors are the real heroes. I saw doctors working so many hours. I'm not a hero.
There are 15 other people who helped me. We are a company. I am not the only one.
NOTE: The interview has been edited for clarity.