Ventilators are currently in short supply across the world as healthcare systems race to treat patients suffering from COVID-19. Now, a research collaboration has resulted in a new 3D printed ventilator that requires no electricity.
Albert Chi, who specialises in critical care and prosthetics, has been working with his team at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) and clinical-trial collaborator Albert Manero, CEO and co-founder of non-profit Limbitless Solutions in Orlando, Florida, to develop the ventilators.
It is hoped that, if the design is approved, the ventilator will help with both the COVID-19 pandemic and future disasters in remote regions or where electricity is scarce.
No electricity required
The 3D printed ventilator prototype is unique due to the fact it does not need electricity – only 3D printed parts which have the potential to be manufactured on site in hospitals.
According to the developers, a single ventilator could be manufactured within three to eight hours, depending on the printer that is used, and can be made operational with the addition of low-cost springs. The low-tech ventilators can be replicated anywhere in the world for less than $10 (€9.11) of material, Chi said.
The prototype was tested to show that it can work for at least 24 hours without durability, finding that it continued to work for seven continuous days without any issues.
“Hearing the machine ‘breathing’ during testing was a really moving experience,” Manero says. “The sound is such a reminder of why we continue to do everything we can to support our community in any way we can. It is an example of what teamwork can accomplish to change the world.”
Chi said: “They [Limbitless] did such a good job producing the pieces. I knew the quality of their work. I knew I could trust them to produce the first 10 prototypes. Our teams are kindred partners just wanting to help save lives. This is the power of heart, mind and a co-operative spirit.”
“I feel like all my experiences until this point – being in the Navy, working in trauma critical care, meeting Limbitless – they all led me here to this moment, where together we can make a difference. It’s not just about being a doctor, it’s wanting to give back and help anyone in need, which is what I think makes Albert and I such good partners.”
Utilising manufacturing capabilities
The Limbitless team creates prosthetics for children and has been conducting a clinical trial with Chi since 2018, which is currently being adapted for telemedicine per FDA guidelines for responding to COVID-19 to mitigate participants’ travel.
The team has now pivoted its manufacturing capabilities to produce hundreds of 3D-printed face shield components for local hospitals through a national coalition led by 3D company Stratasys and has printed the pieces for the new ventilator in its laboratory for the prototype.
A request has been submitted to the FDA for Emergency Use Authorisation in order to roll out the prototype and support hospitals across the globe.