When a vital piece of medical equipment breaks these days, a friendly corporate repair person isn’t necessarily an easy phone call away. However, thanks to a motley collection of right-to-repair activists, librarians, and archivists, that life-saving tech might just be diverted from a toxic landfill. 

On Tuesday, the electronics repair site iFixit announced the addition of an entirely new collection of manuals to its repository. Perhaps best known for offering repair kits and instructions for Apple devices, iFixit’s latest venture looked toward the world of medical tech. Specifically, the company published over 13,000 repair manuals for surgical equipment, medical imaging tools, laboratory equipment, and much more. 

Those behind the collection hope to save hospital staff and biomedical equipment technicians countless hours that would be otherwise spent searching for repair manuals online. 

“Manufacturer service reps can’t keep pace with the growing demand for repair of critical hospital equipment,” reads a blog post announcing the new collection. “Even if they could, they can’t respond as quickly as the biomeds, already at the front lines. Unfortunately, biomeds spend innumerable hours scouring the internet, searching for crucial repair information they need to make a fix or perform preventative maintenance.” 

Some of the device categories.

Some of the device categories.

Image: screenshot / ifixit

Notably, according to iFixit, with some exceptions devices manufacturers don’t go out of their way to make these vital repair documents easy to find. 

“Some medical manufacturers, like Mindray, allow biomeds to access their manuals freely,” notes iFixit. “A few more released select documents after the outbreak of COVID-19. But for their day-to-day work, biomeds have long relied on a rag-tag set of web resources to get the job done.” 

This collection is the first step toward changing that. Centralized in one place and free to all, the thousands of manuals have the real potential to facilitate pirate repair jobs on vital medical equipment. In other words, it’s a crowdsourced effort that could literally save lives. 

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The internet, it turns out, can be a beautiful place if we work together to make it so.