A team of engineers based at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) is hoping to provide an emergency solution as global demand for ventilators rises during the Covid-19 pandemic. Last month, they revealed a new type of emergency ventilator that can be produced rapidly and cheaply.

The new design automates the squeezing of a manual bag-valve-mask (BVM) resuscitator so that it acts as a rudimentary ventilator to help a patient breathe, or to replicate basic ventilation functions.

According to Dr Oliver Mulryan, the system is designed out of biograde, readily available laser-cut material so that it can be built by anyone with the right equipment as a “last resort”. The breathing cycle and air volume delivery is controllable using basic rotary dial controls, and it is possible to monitor pressure levels.

“Ultimately, our objective is to make the calibrated device open source, pending regulatory and Governmental approval,” he said.

“Regardless of acquiring this certification, several units will be manufactured for demonstration and calibration purposes and for undergraduate engineering learning and teaching.”

A prototype has been developed in conjunction with Mayo-based Collins Plastics. Work is now underway to automate and control the device so that it can interact with the physician and patient for assisted breathing.

Using open-source software
With future waves of the coronavirus potentially coming down the line, Mulryan’s joint lead on the project, James Boyle, said that he hopes the GMIT design can play at least some part in meeting potential demand for ventilators and emergency systems.
“Often the cost of purchasing licences for software to program automation systems makes simple projects unviable,” Boyle said. “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.”
In addition to Mulryan and Doyle, the team also includes David McDonnell, Dr Alan Hannon of GMIT, and Liam Collins and Kate Thompson of Collins Plastics.

It joins a number of other efforts by engineers and doctors across Ireland who are attempting to quickly develop and produce solutions for treating Covid-19 patients. Among them is the Open Source Ventilator project and the Galway VentShare team that developed a system to allow two patients be treated using one ventilator.

Colm Gorey
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