Engineers and designers from Poland-based Urbicum have banded together to launch the VentilAid project, an effort to design an open-source ventilator which can be reproduced using a 3D printer and an assembly of basic, easily accessible parts. The open-source ventilator is being designed to help medical professionals in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic in cases where more traditional hospital resources are limited or exhausted.
“We are facing a serious threat due to COVID-19,” the VentilAid team writes on its website. “Most of the countries are suffering severe shortage of medical equipment, that cannot be produced and delivered in a short time. Ventilators are essential to keep breathing when faced with the complications of COVID-19.”
Indeed, devices like ventilators are proving to be critical in helping to treat people suffering the more severe symptoms of the novel coronavirus. The machines are designed to move air into and out of the lungs, mechanically inducing breath when the patient it unable to breathe. As the coronavirus pandemic has escalated, there have been a number of efforts to both ramp up production of traditional ventilator systems and to create open-source alternatives for medical institutions with dire need.
In the case of the VentilAid project, the team behind the device has clearly stated that its 3D printed ventilator is “a last resort device when professional equipment is missing.” Crucially, the team believes its device could play a critical role in developing nations, where medical resources are limited.
To date, the Urbicum team says it has come up with a working prototype for the ventilator, which is composed of several 3D printed components and a handful of industrial parts, including a pneumatic actuator with 10-20 cm stroke and a pneumatic limit switch or electric limit switch with check valve and 12VDC power supply. The 3D printed components are designed to be printed from PLA or ABS and TPU or Flex materials. Parts can be 3D printed in roughly 15 hours.
While clinical testing has not yet been completed (this is why the team stresses that the ventilator is as of now only recommended as a last resort), early tests have shown that the system is reliable and functions well with a stream of compressed air. The team is also now working on a second generation prototype that uses a 12 V DC (car battery) / 120C AC – 230V AC (socket) and does not require compressed air nor a pneumatic actuator.
“VentilAid must be simple, very cheap and possible to produce locally from commonly available parts and 3D printed elements,” the team adds. “We encourage internet community to participate in a project that can save lives!”
You can find more information about other open-source 3D printing projects developed to help fight COVID-19 in our dedicated forum.