Engineers are turning £25 snorkel masks into ventilators

A firm is making valves that transform a £25 snorkelling mask into a respiratory ventilator for coronavirus patients.

Protolabs, in Telford, Shropshire, is 3D printing the parts for Italian firm Isinnova, where engineers came up with the novel solution.

The mask is widely sold at Decathlon stores and online priced at £24.99.

They were contacted by doctors having to cope with a shortage of ventilators during the Covid-19 pandemic.

They realised they could convert ‘Easybreath’ snorkelling masks into ventilators by adding a new valve which can be made via 3D printing.

The ‘Charlotte’ valves are now being made at Protolabs’ European headquarters in Halesfield, Telford, and shipped to Italy where they will be made ready for medical use.

The masks and the Charlotte valve have not yet been officially certified for medical use but with other masks often not available in Italy, patients are now able to take advantage of a potentially life-saving option.

Bjoern Klaas, vice president and managing director of Protolabs Europe, said: ‘The ‘Charlotte’ valve in Italy is already having a really positive impact on the challenge faced by medical staff and the wider society.

‘I am extremely proud of the commitment and expertise everyone is showing and I am humbled that, in our own way, we can contribute to saving lives across the world.’

Protolabs is also producing tens of thousands of components for Covid-19 testing kits that will be used at hospitals across the UK and Europe.

The company is making the plastic cassettes which blood samples will be put into ready to be tested for coronavirus.

Ricoh 3D, another Telford-based 3D printing business, has also offered its resources to help make ventilators for coronavirus patients after the Government called for UK manufacturers to step up production and help ease the shortage.

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