The idea is to create a bare-bones ventilator that could serve in the event of a ventilator shortage anywhere in the world during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Amateur radio operators are once again playing a crucial role in times of despair, with some of them, including Hyderabad’s Ashhar Farhan, now in the process of developing an electronic control system for an open-source low-cost ventilator.
The device was designed by researcher Sem Lampotang and his team at University of Florida using components like PVC pipes and lawn-sprinkler valves. The idea is to create a bare-bones ventilator that could serve in the event of a ventilator shortage anywhere in the world during the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to an article in arrl.org, the website of the US-based National Association for Amateur Radio, Lampotang’s team, which has members in places as far-flung as the US, Canada, Hyderabad, Ireland, Vietnam and Brazil, was now working on adding safety features to meet regulatory guidelines for the ventilator, after which they would run engineering tests to determine safety, accuracy, and endurance of the machine, which they say can be built for as little as $125 to $250.
Design specifications and videos of the prototype are being posted online, and are being translated into different languages as well so that the machine can be made anywhere in the world. About 140 volunteers are studying or working to push the project to completion. Software is being created by multiple volunteers, with amateur radio operators involved in that phase as well.
The ventilator’s valves will precisely time the flow of compressed oxygen into a patient with lungs weakened by viral pneumonia in order to extend life and allow time for the body to clear the infection, the arrl.org article says.
Hyderabad’s Farhan is involved in the control system aspect of the project. He is part of a team that involves Lampotang’s friend and former colleague Gordon Gibby, who is a retired associated professor of anesthesiology, and noted software developer Jack Purdum.
A YouTube video posted by Farhan for the team, on the user interface and mockup ventilator, which in fact are working pretty well, Farhan shows how he has made it using a vacuum cleaner, a plumbing pipe with two valves that regulate the airflow, a test lung of one litre capacity and so on.
The project is expected to be completed in a few more days.