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VentAID — A low cost ventilator to fight COVID-19 around the world

The problem

You might have heard of the worldwide ventilator shortage caused by the current pandemic. But, why are they in such high demand?
Well, COVID-19 can cause severe pneumonia, which increases the breathing difficulty for the patients, thus making it hard for them to supply enough oxygen to their vital organs.

Mechanical ventilators provide breathing support that gives lungs enough time to heal, which makes them crucial for lowering the mortality rate. However, not even with all the manufacturers working at full capacity would it be possible to meet the current demand.

This might sound wacky, but picture this: New York alone is estimated to need around 30,000 respirators to combat the pandemic. According to calculations by the president of the Latin American Chest Association, this figure is greater than the sum of all the respirators available in Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and the Central American countries combined.

Gladly, some countries have already passed their peak and are gradually lowering their curves, however in others such as within Latin America, the worst is yet to come.

Having offices around the world, this pandemic has hit close to our homes which is why, led by our Mexico’s team, we in propelland have raised our hands to help alleviate the situation.

Our challenge

When we first dived into the topic, we realized that even though there were already many solution proposals from brilliant and well-intentioned people across the globe, most of them turned to be nonviable, as they were not taking into consideration all the specifications needed. You see, respirators do much more than pushing air through people’s lungs.

Acknowledging this issue, we got together with medical experts to guide us through the respiratory compliances that had to be taken into account, as well as the usability factors at play in hospital rooms.

We learned that we had to design a scalable device that could replace the current alternative: Manual valve respirators (“ambu bag ventilators”). These devices not only fail to provide consistent ventilation, and therefore cannot prevent the delivery of excessive oxygenation, but also require people operating them 24x7, which makes them extremely inefficient.

Making it happen

As Pedro Romero, the project lead says, “What cannot be seen cannot be improved”.

So, for 5 days the team did just that. They rolled up their sleeves and worked on developing an easy-to-use, high-performance automatic device that was fastly scalable, lightweight, and extremely durable by using highly available decontaminable materials, and of course, much more affordable. How much? Well, a regular ventilator costs +10k USD. Our team managed to keep it around 300 USD.

The team’s human centered design DNA pushed them to work tightly with medical experts along the process to validate each iteration and learn for improvements.

This is how, on a sprint, we designed VentAID; A reliable, automatic time/volume cycled ventilator that is able to deliver breath by breath consistency in a tidal volume, frequency, inspiratory/expiratory times and flow rates.

The functional model can be assembled and operated by low-skill leveled people. It is equipped with an electronic control to manage rhythm and volume, has an emergency stop system, and is capable of functioning for at least 48 hours.

We are currently working on a method to humidify the air being delivered.

How can I help?

You can help by circulating this article to raise awareness, contacting us with someone who has the capacity to industrialize the device, or by hacking and improving the design.

We are deeply committed to aiding this crisis as much as we can, and we understand the impact decentralizing information has on innovation, which is why we have made our work available for anyone to download on our VentAID webpage. VentAID is a device created by using consumer off-the-shelf parts and capabilities, for anyone around the world to replicate.

If you would like to help or find out more, please reach out to or visit the VentAID webpage to stay updated on the project’s progress.

Be safe, and let’s flatten the curve together.

Keep Propelling!

collection of thoughts, tips and ideas from the thinkers, makers and hackers at propelland

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