The University of Minnesota is touting makeshift ventilators made from $150 in parts as potential solutions amid the shortage of equipment at healthcare facilities during the COVID-19 outbreak.
According to a report in the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, researchers tested the prototype on a pig, keeping the animal breathing for an hour and confirming the possibility of building these homemade devices to help during the coronavirus pandemic.
The researchers developed the mechanical ventilator as a compact device the size of a cereal box that does not require pressurized oxygen or air supply, unlike commercially available mechanical ventilators. According to a website dedicated to the device, dubbed the “Coventor,” in collaboration with the university and local industry leaders, the researchers acquired the necessary components to assemble thousands of ventilators per week, with all of them currently shipping from Minneapolis.
With a frame and mechanical actuator designed to stabilize and compress a commercially available ambulatory ventilation bag connected to the patient’s endotracheal tube and external compressed oxygen, the device can also compress ambient air if oxygen is unavailable. That frame can be metal stamped, 3D printed or modified consumer goods, according to the Coventor website.
“The reason that we’re here today is that somebody needed this ventilator that we’re making, yesterday,” University of Minnesota anesthesiologist Dr. Stephen Richardson said in a video created by the research team. “This allows those patients who would otherwise not have an opportunity to survive, to survive. It gives people a chance.”
Thief River Falls, Minn.–based Digi-Key is one of several companies that partnered with the University of Minnesota researchers in the process of building the ventilator. St. Paul, Minn.-based MGC Diagnostics was another local company that made a vital contribution.
Other partners include Protolabs, Teknic, Essential Medical Devices and Rally Studios, along with the University of Minnesota itself and its Earl E. Bakken Medical Devices Center.