Healthcare facilities around the world are facing a shortage in medical equipment. This is due to the unprecedented outbreak of the coronavirus which has affected hundreds of thousands of people around the world. This is clearly a lot more patients than most hospitals are equipped to handle.
One of the pieces of medical equipment that hospitals are running out of are ventilators. The problem with ventilators is that they are expensive and can cost around $30,000 each. However, the good folks at MIT are working to release plans for an emergency ventilator that can be made for $100 using existing materials, and those plans will be released online for free.
MIT has actually been working on such a device dating back about a decade ago. This ventilator design was created by a group of students who were working with local physicians. However, the project came to a stop after the students published a paper detailing its design and testing, but now it looks like following the outbreak, work on the project has resumed again.
One of the main components of the machine is the use of a bag-valve respirator, which is something many hospitals already have on hand. This is essentially a hand-operated ventilator used in emergency situations until a ventilator machine can be hooked up to the patient. MIT’s design uses that bag, but also a mechanical system that will help automate the pumping process.
The key to this machine is being able to pump the bag in a controlled manner without damaging it. According to one of the team members working on the project, “We are releasing design guidance (clinical, mechanical, electrical/controls, testing) on a rolling basis as it is developed and documented. We encourage capable clinical-engineering teams to work with their local resources, while following the main specs and safety information, and we welcome any input other teams may have.”
In the meantime, we have seen other efforts to create ventilators, such as through an open-source design, while companies such as Ford are also working together with other companies to help manufacture ventilators as well.