Cranfield University helps create new low-cost, simple ventilators for COVID-19 patients

    A simple, low-cost Bag Valve Mask (BVM) ventilator to help critically-ill COVID-19 patients has been rapidly designed by experts at Cranfield University and built in Georgia Tech (USA) in a matter of days.

    The makeshift ventilator can serve two patients simultaneously and due to its flat-pack design can be quickly manufactured at scale, costing less than £75 per unit. The research team intends to make plans for the device to be available to manufacturers as quickly as possible. 

    The BVMs are designed to be used by people with training to use these devices such as medical staff, first aiders, nurses, doctors and carers, as a temporary or emergency breathing aid for those suffering with COVID-19. 

    The ventilator device works with ‘positive displacement’, forcing air into the patient’s lungs. This process must be controlled to ensure the right amount of air goes in, at the right rhythmic pace – something called the ‘tidal volume’. Though each emergency ventilator can serve two patients simultaneously, their air flow is separate to avoid cross-contamination and flow volumes can be controlled independently. 

    Professor Leon Williams is head of the Centre for Competitive Creative Design (C4D) at Cranfield University and joined forces with Associate Professor Shannon Yee from Georgia Tech to rapidly design and build the low-cost and robust makeshift ventilator. 

    Professor Williams said: "We focused on creating something that can be mass-produced using water-jet or laser cutting, and modular in design to make it easy to assemble and switch out parts. Within five days of getting the brief, an initial design from the Cranfield team was sent to Georgia Tech to test.

    "We have paid special attention to the requirements of medical specialists to ensure the system is fit for purpose. For example, ensuring that the operator can manually adjust the tidal volume to safeguard the patient, maintaining the lowest pressure possible in the airway to avoid trauma.” 

    A small batch of the devices has already been assembled for testing. 

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