A small start-up 3D printing company in Galway has offered to supply medical components to hospitals if they are experiencing shortages.

Galway Technology Ltd is following the example of a company in Italy who stepped in to help hospitals when they ran short of valves.

The west of Ireland is an established hub for medical devices, parts and components.

Husband and wife team James Wall and Jacqui O'Connor combined their bio-medical engineering skills to set up MedScan3D which produces 3D printed models for the healthcare sector. 

Now they are offering a non-profit service to hospitals, if supplies run low. 

Mr Wall said they just needed samples of items in order to scan and create a file ready for printing.

For example, he said the company could print eight small respirator parts in 70 minutes. That is 164 a day and 1100 a week. He said the company was at the ready if supplies run short.

The idea to offer back-up to hospitals came about when they saw another 3D printing company in Italy helping out hospitals during the country's ongoing crisis.

Massive respirator shortages saw the company step in when the original supplier was unable to keep up with demand.

Ms O'Connor said she hoped Ireland would not reach the crisis levels that are engulfing Italy, but she said the company wanted healthcare professionals to know they were on standby to help.

As well as aiding patients they can supply visors and goggles to frontline staff in need of protection.

They can also support engineers making medical devices who need components urgently but are unable to manufacture themselves due to high demand.

The company will seek to cover their costs, which will be kept to a minimum, but are offering their services on a not-for-profit basis.

The scale and speed of the coronavirus pandemic has led to an urgent need for medical parts and equipment in the worst affected areas.

Multinational company Medtronic - with a site in Galway - has announced plans to double its production of ventilators.