5 Q&A | Alessandro Romaioli, Pandemic Hero

Alessandro Romaioli

Thanks to the valves you produced at the beginning of the pandemic, you were on the agenda around the world. Can you explain this process?

It was March when the director of the local newspapers, who knew us, called for asking if we could help an hospital obtain some breathing valves with the help of the 3D printing. At this moment, I must say that we did’t really understand what we would be going through, but we answered “yes, we can try “. It was a taugh period. Newspapers and TV news were just talking about the Covid; we were all locked down and we wanted to help people in some ways but we couldn’t do it before this call. Once we arrived at the hospital, the medical engineer came to me and he gave me a small box, He just said that “that’s what we need, we wish 100 pieces”, without saying anything else about materials, their funcions, junctions and so on. Because he had to run back to work (we all knew what doctors was passing through in that period) We took it and came back. We took some hand measurement bacause the shape of the piece didn’t allow us to make it differently. we decided to make it with the technique of 3D printing that consisted in print 2 different pieces. We combined them and in the end,we made the small hole by hand. Our main focus was to create the pieces in one day. It was the thing that the hospital only asked. When we gave back the first pieces back to the doctor, he told “ok, let’s try them on a patient”! we stopped him:”wait wait its just a prototype, we have to check them with some tests, analyze the main parameters, try the connections and..” but he interfered us, “I have patients that hardly breath because they need this valves. I do have to decide whether leaving them without oxigen or trying to put the valves on them, what would you do?” We were just two of us, no one answered. After 20 minutes, it was like we spent hours bacause we were scared, the doctor came back and told “it works!” After printing other 100 pieces, with the help of other companies we were in contact with we started to understand what we did in just one day. 

You inspired a lot of people back then. Thismust be a great feeling. Isn’t it?

As I said before, we did’t really understand what we were doing, I mean, the extent of that. When newspapers started to write articles that called us “heroes” I started to feel something but in the company, we were all thinkingyes, we did it, great! But we all knew that newspapers could  disseminate information to make us look bigger and so with the people“, what we felt arose from real people was real. They called us just to thank, they were writing us from the other part of the word just to thank us….that was the real feeling: thankfulness of real people. 

From the pandemic period to this day, your company is in serious demand. Have you continued with the samestability?

Actually I’m not in Isinnova anymore. Luckly the need of medical issues came back to the producerof certified disposal because we were working in pandeminc period with vital need without any other possibility. Now, we came back to the normality somehow. And it’s true that all the medical disposals follow the proper legal ways.

How far will the development in 3D printers go? What else will we see about it?

There are a lot of possibilities. 3D printing has huge opportunities in dislocating the product, it can be used to do other great things. 3D printing, as well as other techniques, is evolving but it has an advantage that a lot of people can use and can help it development of new projects. It’s not a technique, and that’s the huge difference from other technologies, owned by the other companies but also by normal people. And sometimes, huge things, as happened to us, came from normal people, not from specific scientists.

What are your plans for the future?

Actually my plans are not related to what I did during this period anymore; I mean I’m really happy about what I did. I would do it again, but I don’t follow the need of trying to do an other great project because I have sort of feeling that I have to. I would do it again if there would be the need of, I would just make a mess if I try to do a great project without the need of it. We must remember that we were the right people in the right place at the right time and we were also lucky! I don’t want to repeat myself without all the same circumstences, also, because we had the help of a lot of people in that moment, we didn’t do that all by our own, it was a team success! 

About the Author
Dalia Cohen has worked in magazines such as Newsweek, Fortune and Women's Health in her editorial career. She is actively involved in many NGOs and writes articles on topics such as politics, health and technology. She is also actively working on antisemitism and women's rights.