A shortage of ventilators is a key barrier to managing the COVID-19 crisis worldwide. Hospitals simply do not have enough of the medical devices to meet demand and people are dying because of it. Manufacturers are ramping up ventilator production where possible, but there is widespread concern their efforts will be too little, too late.
In response, an interdisciplinary team of experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has developed an emergency ventilator device and shared its build plans for free online. Their hope is that qualified professionals around the world can use their plans to create ventilators themselves and ensure that every patient who needs one gets one.
The team designed and built its new ventilator model, called the E-Vent, from designs produced in an earlier MIT class. Their task is transforming this class experiment to a truly viable and functional device ready to be implemented in the real world. The design takes a hand-operated resuscitator, or Ambu-bag, and connects it to a small mechanical system that can offer sustained, automatic pumping that matches different patients’ needs without compromising the bag. It can be built using parts costing roughly $400 to $500.
All information about the new ventilator has been publicly released at: e-vent.mit.edu. Anyone in the world can use the website to learn more about the device, download the building instructions, and communicate back with the development team. The team has invited other engineering teams will pick up their model and began iterating on it in parallel, so as to accelerate, validate, and strengthen their efforts.
The pandemic crisis is truly terrible and devastating. Thousands have died already and thousands more will likely die in the coming weeks and months. Yet, I can’t help but be inspired by efforts like those of this MIT team. They embody the spirit of cooperation – both among their inter-disciplinary team of designers, engineers, medical professionals, and others, working together, as well as in their willingness to share their plans for free and invite others to help them. Collaborative models like this can be true gamechangers for some of the most urgent challenges we face.
What other lifesaving innovations like this ventilator will we incubate among this crisis? What other urgent crisis outside the pandemic might benefit from such a response?