With an alarming shortage of ventilators and the constant influx of COVID-19 patients needing life-saving treatment, mechanical engineers and physicians had to get creative with materials and design. So, the interdisciplinary team of Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center faculty invented a ventilator made out of household items that can be assembled in less than three hours.
Spearheaded by engineers, Kevin Galloway, Robert Webster, Richard A. Schroeder, the experiment started with Webster who had been tinkering around his garage trying to come up with a design for a homemade ventilator. The first ventilator prototype, constructed of plywood, involved wrapping nylon webbing around an Ambu bag and attaching it to the crank arm of a windshield wiper motor. This applied a repetitive squeezing force.
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The second version is similar but has a cleaner design and the amount of squeeze (a.k.a. tidal volume) is more precisely controlled. Additional sensors and controls were added to improve the safety and “tune the ‘in-and-out’ ratio to match normal breathing.”
The engineering team hopes to transition “version two” of the ventilator prototype into the final prototype phase before manufacturing. According to Galloway, the end-goal is to “make the design publicly available so that anyone can replicate it.”