Italian Engineers Turn Snorkeling Masks Into Life-Saving Ventilators

These are hard times for us, as they bring numerous challenges. The coronavirus pandemic has shocked the world, and its rapid spread has increased the demand for qualified specialists and necessary equipment.

Yet, many innovators and companies are struggling to develop creative solutions to the problems that arise with the outbreak of the coronavirus.

To meet the demands and help during the crisis, engineers at ISINNOVA teamed up with Decathlon and medical experts to develop life-saving ventilators.

Namely, they turn full-face snorkeling masks into masks that can be hooked up to medical breathing machines and thus help people infected with the COVID-19 virus.

Innovators seek alternatives in the case of a lack of medical equipment 

Dr. Renato Favero, former head physician at the Gardone Valtrompia Hospital, had an idea to mitigate the shortage of C-PAP masks, and he approached engineers Cristian Fracassi and Alessandro Romaioli of ISINNOVA, an engineering company, in Brescia, a city in Lombardy that has seen thousands of COVID-19 deaths.

With the coronavirus outbreak, the need for these masks, that are used in sub-intensive therapy, dramatically increased.

Therefore, the idea of Dr. Favero was to modify readily-available scuba diver masks into masks that can be connected to a ventilating machine.

In a blog post, ISINNOVA wrote:

“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.”

Italian engineers developed a way to turn snorkeling masks into ventilation masks 

Italian engineering company ISINNOVA worked together with Decathlon and medical experts to create and test it

Soon, Decathlon, a sporting goods retailer, was involved in the project as a producer, and supplier of the Easybreath snorkeling mask.

ISINNOVA studied and modified the CAD designs, including the design and 3D printing of the Charlotte and Dave valves, the part between that connects the mask and the breathing machine tubes.

Dr. Fracassi and Mr. Romaioli have already designed and printed plastic valves, and then learned that a local hospital lacked these essential parts and decided to help.

ISINNOVA tested the prototype on one of their colleagues inside Chiari Hospital, and it was successful. The mask was there tested on one patient and the new modified ventilation mask passed the test with flying colors.

Fracassai and Romaioli explained:

“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 also made blueprints available for free so that hospitals could make them in emergencies

They uploaded a 5-step video tutorial onto YouTube detailing the assembly

What’s more, they made the blueprints and instructions available online, free of charge, so that other hospitals can build and use them too.

This is an easy and inexpensive way to solve the issue with the lack of masks, as the Easybreath snorkeling masks from Decathlon can be bought for €25, and they can 3D print the valves on their own.

Yet, some snorkeling experts suspect the safety of full-face masks, due to the excess carbon dioxide building up inside them.

Moreover, even though the innovation solves the problem with the masks, there will still be a lack of ventilators.

According to ISINNOVA, the masks should be used if there is no other option


Yet, ISINNOVA explained that the masks and the link valves are not certified, so they should be used only when they are absolutely necessary.

They cost around €25, which is four times less than proper C-PAP masks

The printing and assembling of masks should be done by skilled specialists only, and the valve has also been patented to prevent any speculation on pricing.

This full video explains the assembling of the mask 

These are the reactions to this innovation: