Hospital ventilators are complex pieces of machinery that can use several sensors to control airflow and pressure. Existing suppliers’ monthly production is typically in the 10,000 or so units range. New production capacity will take months. As hospital and local governments have pleaded to get more ventilators during the coronavirus pandemic, several organizations have responded quickly, especially with new design ideas. To provide a starting point to consolidate these global efforts, a few of the more promising approaches will be presented.
A professor of anesthesiology at the University of Florida and an established inventor has built a ventilator out of items consumers can buy from hardware stores. He will not patent it and instead made it open source for engineers and hobbyists worldwide. He says the cost of the machine is from $125 to $250.
Canada’s Code Life Ventilator Challenge invites interested individuals or teams to design a simple, maintainable, easy-to-manufacture ventilator to provide life support to COVID-19 patients anywhere in the world. The goal is to design a ventilator using widespread rapid manufacturing tools, such as 3D printers, computer numerical control (CNC) machines and others, combined with a low-cost computing platform such as a smartphones, Arduinos or other approach. Those interested can join the challenge by providing manufacturing support, technical expertise support or a donation to the foundation.
While scientists, engineers and healthcare professionals find ventilator design to be the more compelling aspect, many of the recent designs are manufacturable by their creators and if the devices have achieved some level of verification and the designers provided sufficient details including open source software, any group of technically inclined individuals should be able to build one, two or more ventilators in a few days – not weeks and certainly not months. Similar to moving the blocks for the Great Pyramid in Egypt, when enough people are involved (we have 7.8 billion), the almost impossible can be achieved.