Three months after the launch of the CoVent-19 Challenge, a winner has been named: the SmithVent. The device, designed by an engineering team from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, is a rapidly manufacturable pneumatic ventilator designed for COVID-19 patients and ease of use. The next step in the design challenge will see the low-cost ventilator being assessed and validated for use in Nigeria.
The CoVent-19 Challenge is an initiative launched by a team of anesthesiology resident physicians from Massachusetts General Hospital with the aim of finding a design for a rapidly deployable, minimum viable ventilator that could be used in places facing ventilator shortages. The challenge, which launched on April 1st, received over 200 submissions. In early May, the challenge announced seven finalists, whose designs were prototyped and tested by a panel of judges.
The SmithVent design created by a 30-person team at Smith College was one of the finalists, and was ultimately chosen as the winner. The SmithVent is a cost effective pneumatic ventilator that costs only about a tenth of the price of a regular ventilator. The device uses a combination of economical proportional solenoid valve technology and an air-oxygen mixing chamber, and it meets the requirements for COVID-19 ventilation. The cost was kept low by using off-the-shelf components, as well as 3D printed parts (including ISO fittings, mounting blocks and the enclosure).
“To a person, we came into this not knowing anything about ventilators,” said Smith College Engineering Professor Susannah Howe. “In two months we went from knowing nothing to having a functional prototype. That’s just crazy. To see that trajectory in such a short period of time, with people who are volunteering their time on top of their other jobs is amazing and heartwarming and so rewarding.”
The open source design was awarded first prize, and two other CoVent-19 Challenge teams were also recognized: the InVent Pneumatic Ventilator, submitted by a San Francisco-based team including fuseproject and Cionic; and RespiraWorks, developed by an international team of engineers, healthcare workers and other professionals dedicated to developing solutions for low-resource communities.
Initially, the CoVent-19 Challenge believed that the United States might require additional low-cost ventilators to treat patients (this may still be the case if the country does not curb the virus’ spread). Today, however, the main focus has switched to providing the ventilator solutions to developing nations. Dr. Richard Boyer, founder and director of the CoVent-19 Challenge, explained: “Our focus has since shifted to developing countries, where we’re seeing high death rates and limited resources to deal with the ravages of this new disease. The test bed we developed gives us a lot of confidence in the performance of the winning prototype, and frankly there is probably tremendous value in getting other finalist designs out into the world too.”
The CoVent-19 Challenge has awarded its top three winners a total of $10,000 in credits for 3D printing from Stratasys, which supported the challenge with its 3D printing capabilities and GrabCAD platform. Critically, each finalist received access to free 3D printing and a team of application engineers in the prototyping phase of the challenge.