Currently there are big news articles about some guys that printed some valves for a hospital in need as the supplier wasn't able to provide the needed parts fast enough.

The media says that the supply company now wants to sue the guys for creating the valves themselves and that the valves are worth 11k$. (See i.e. here, here or here(BBC))

I can think for sure of some patents and copyrights that don't allow them to copy these valves or other reasons to sue them, but I cannot think of these valves being worth 11k$.

All articles I found stated that the valve was sold for 11k$ by the company, if mentioned. No other value was called nor the 11k$ declined. They only call out the price difference of 1$ (guys) to 11k$ (company).

These valves seem to be used for a Venturi Oxygen Mask (see linked article) and can be used only 8h before they need to be cleaned by medical process (disinfected by chemical/uv/heat) and that the guy's part cannot be used for that.

I understand that the professional part is more expensive due to development costs and special materials, but does that legitimate such an expensive product? Or is this just a media hoax?

This question is not about why they sue them, only the stated price of 11k$.

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    I looked up some numbers from press releases of Dräger, a big manufacturer of respiratory devices from Northern Germany [not the one in question here]: they just published their balance for last year and report an EBIT marge of 2.4 %. Another 2 press releases have bits and pieces that we may consider for plausibility check here: they say that they just got audited according to the newest regulations for medical device manufactuers, and invested 35 M€ over 3 - 4 years to get to that level. (Yes, they were an up-to-date medical device provider already before that). My conclusion is that it may Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 10:26
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    very well be that a large part of the production costs for these valves are overhead costs such as such sterile production facilities and audits which are high per piece since these parts are not something manufacured in the millions. Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 10:35
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    @gnasher729: why? - in particular wrt such medical devices I can imagine well that respirator technology is an ongoing development topic. Here's one example btw: patents.google.com/patent/US8695599B2/en Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 10:40
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    Another point that would be relevant for the variable production costs: I read in a newspaper article about the same Dräger company that while they are manufacturing respirators now as fast as they possibly can, right now they are limited in their capacity for testing the devices before they are delivered. Similar testing procedures may also be required for parts like the valves. So the 3d printed parts are good right now: if they don't work (either directly, or because they come at a higher risk of infections, ...) the patient is not much worse off since the alternative there now is sure... Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 10:47
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    ... death. The normal suppliers of medical equipment are nevertheless held to the usual very high standards for reliability and performance of their products. Commented Mar 18, 2020 at 10:49

1 Answer 1


The Verge article you cite from the 17th March 2020 was updated on the 18 March 2020:

But in an interview with The Verge, Romaioli denied they’d received threats. [...] While earlier reporting said the original valve cost over $10,000, Fracassi also told Fast Company that this number was inaccurate.

So, the claim appears to be false.

  • Why quote the "threats" part? (Confuses me.) // In all, that is one slightly iffy source that simply states 'original dollars < 10000'. For a device that these fairy tale heroes made for ~1$ material cost. A theoretically still possible markup of 9998$ sounds just as stunning as the exact original claim itself? If the cost for the valve from the OE manufacturer is above, say 50$, I'd prefer to modify the flat "false". But medical/pharma do charge ridiculous amounts… So, how much does/did the original supplier charge? Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 15:02
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    @LangLangC: Since the 3D printed parts were not equivalent to the OEM valves, particularly in the area of material compatibility with disinfectant agents, you cannot use the $1 cost of printing materials as an estimate of the materials cost for the actual valve.
    – Ben Voigt
    Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 15:07
  • @BenVoigt That might mean, sja.org.uk/first-aid-supplies/specialist-equipment/… selling for example for measly 0.49£ might be bought in bulk and then amount to X $s when ordering a palette… Granted that reporting on Covid stories was and is mostly bull anyway, getting to the bottom of this outlandish sounding claim in details retracing the steps of exaggeration might be quite illuminating? More so than "appears false"? Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 15:07
  • In the end, we might see a scare story of 'scarcity in generalised hysteria', with a certified piece in short supply, and entrepreneurs stepping in for PR (and real samaritanism?) providing the scarce piece, without certification, violating licences etc, but: hauling it in when 'needed', even at a perhaps increased price per piece? Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 15:10
  • @LangLangC: I quote that part to give the understanding that the whole premise of the original story was completely undermined by the purported source denying it. I decline to wildly speculate on the actual price nor the actual costs nor the motivations of the various players; I don't need to to answer the question. I do not wish to write a general essay on how errors spread in media. I don't know what "scarcity in generalised hysteria" or "hauling it in" means.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Aug 2, 2022 at 6:31

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