GMIT engineers develop low-cost emergency ventilator

Galway Daily news GMIT develops low cost emergency ventilator

Staff at GMIT have bent their talents towards helping frontline services while colleges are closed by developing a new type of low-cost emergency ventilator.

This mechanical ventilator can be produced rapidly and inexpensively to assist the medical profession in the treatment of COIVD-19 patients as global demand for this life saving piece of equipment remains higher than ever.

GMIT is one of numerous teams, nationally and internationally, working towards finding an alternative solution to the anticipated global demand as, currently, certified ventilators can cost tens of thousands of euro upfront.

“This new emergency ventilator automates the squeezing of a manual Bag-Valve-Mask resuscitator, so that it can act as a rudimentary ventilator to aid a person breathing, or to replicate some basic ventilation functions,” explains Dr Oliver Mulryan, GMIT.

“The system is designed out of bio-grade, readily available and laser cut material, so that it can be built anywhere or by anyone as a last resort if needed.”

Their ultimate goal he explained, is to make the calibrated device plans, regulating flow, pressure, and oxygen levels, completely free and open source for anyone to use, pending regulatory approval.

Currently a low-cost prototype has been developed together with local company Collins Plastic, and they are in the process of adding automation and control functions to the device.

Oftentimes having to licence highly specialised software can be a crippling expense for technology projects, which is why GMIT has designed their ventilator to work with low cost controllers that can be programmed with open source software.

James Boyle, Head of the Advanced Craft Certificate Programme for Electrical Installation, GMIT, says: “The breathing cycle and air volume delivery is fully controllable using simple rotary dial controls.

“We have also included pressure monitoring, which can be applied to BVMs that have a manometer port.”

The project is led by Mr Boyle and Dr Mulryan and the team includes Pat Cassidy from the Dept of Electronic & Electrical Engineering, David McDonnell and Dr Alan Hannon from the Dept of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering,

As well as Liam Collins and Kate Thompson from Collins Plastics, Ballina, Co Mayo, who provided not alone their time and expertise, but also the materials and machining.

World health experts have stated there are likely to be several waves of outbreaks and that a large increase in conventional ventilator production is still likely to fall short of the global demand, and for some the associated costs are likely to be prohibitive.

“In Ireland there are approximately 1,300 ventilators available, and in mid-March the Health Service Executive ordered 900 new ventilators specifically for the treatment of patients with Covid 19,” explains Dr Mulryan.

“In the US, by contrast, there is a broad range of forecast estimates on the number of ventilators required, ranging from hundreds of thousands to millions depending on the severity of infections, the transmission rates and the effectiveness of countermeasures.”

Gerard MacMichael, Head of the GMIT School of Engineering, says: “Putting a team together to design and manufacture a ventilator within weeks would normally be a challenge in the best of times”.

“But to achieve this during the COVID-19 containment is extraordinary and is a reflection of the dedication and the enthusiasm of the GMIT engineering staff involved and Collins Plastics’ commitment to the project.”