GMIT team lead development of new low-cost emergency ventilator
Demand expected to increase as worldwide experts claim several waves of COVID outbreaks are likely
Staff within the GMIT School of Engineering have designed and developed a new type of emergency ventilator that can be produced rapidly and inexpensively to assist the medical profession in the treatment of COIVD-19 patients.
GMIT is one of numerous teams, nationally and internationally, working towards finding an alternative solution to the anticipated global demand as, currently, certified ventilators can cost tens of thousands of euro upfront.
“This new emergency ventilator automates the squeezing of a manual Bag-Valve-Mask (BVM) resuscitator, so that it can act as a rudimentary ventilator to aid a person breathing, or to replicate some basic ventilation functions,” explains Dr Oliver Mulryan, GMIT. “The system is designed out of bio-grade, readily available and laser cut material, so that it can be built anywhere or by anyone as a last resort if needed.”
“Ultimately, our objective is to make the calibrated device (flow, pressure and oxygen levels) open source, pending regulatory and governmental approval. Regardless of acquiring this certification, several units will be manufactured for demonstration and calibration purposes, and for undergraduate engineering learning and teaching.”
“Currently, in conjunction with local company Collins Plastics we have developed a low-cost prototype and we are in the process of automating and controlling the device so that it can interact with both the physician and patient for assisted breathing.”
“Often the cost of purchasing licences for software to program automation systems makes simple projects unviable. We wanted to make it possible for anyone to recreate our ventilator. Therefore, the automation system was designed with low-cost controllers that can be programmed using open-source software,”
James Boyle, Head of the Advanced Craft Certificate Programme for Electrical Installation, GMIT, says: “The breathing cycle and air volume delivery is fully controllable using simple rotary dial controls. We have also included pressure monitoring, which can be applied to BVMs that have a manometer port.”
The project is led by Mr Boyle and Dr Mulryan and the team includes Pat Cassidy from the Dept of Electronic & Electrical Engineering, David McDonnell and Dr Alan Hannon from the Dept of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering, and Liam Collins and Kate Thompson from Collins Plastics, Ballina, Co Mayo, who provided not alone their time and expertise, but also the materials and machining.
World health experts have stated there are likely to be several waves of outbreaks and that a large increase in conventional ventilator production is still likely to fall short of the global demand, and for some the associated costs are likely to be prohibitive. Worldwide governments have appealed to people and business to boost ventilator production and are ordering ventilators as part of the efforts to combat the disease.
“In Ireland there are approximately 1,300 ventilators available, and in mid-March the Health Service Executive ordered 900 new ventilators specifically for the treatment of patients with Covid 19,” explains Dr Mulryan. “In the US, by contrast, there is a broad range of forecast estimates on the number of ventilators required, ranging from hundreds of thousands to millions depending on the severity of infections, the transmission rates and the effectiveness of countermeasures.”
Gerard MacMichael, Head of the GMIT School of Engineering, says: “Putting a team together to design and manufacture a ventilator within weeks would normally be a challenge in the best of times, but to achieve this during the COVID-19 containment is extraordinary and is a reflection of the dedication and the enthusiasm of the GMIT engineering staff involved and Collins Plastics’ commitment to the project.”
For further information about programmes in the GMIT School of Engineering, see: https://www.gmit.ie/engineering/school-engineering
Issued by Regina Daly, GMIT Communications & Press Officer, GMIT, Dublin Road, Galway.
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