The current pandemic is creating many shortages. Among them is one of the most vital pieces of equipment meant for COVID-19 treatment - ventilators. The good news is that there are many ongoing efforts to answer the heightened demand. But, more could be done. One of the recent promising efforts is ARTeSYN BioSolutions Ireland’s ventilator project, led by Jonathan Downey, the Head of our Waterford facility.
This project stems from the Irish government’s efforts to provide an additional supply of ventilators to the local hospitals and prevent having to choose between which of the critically ill to treat. A harsh reality already in some of the heavy hit cities globally. This project began with an Irish group starting an open-source ventilator project. Fast-forward a couple of days - Jonathan has been brought on board to lead the efforts. A few phone calls later between Jonathan and Andrew Lynch at the Irish Manufacturing Research (IMR) and we have a go. Why engineer a new ventilator instead of just making more of what we already have? Scaling the manufacturing of these complex machines is a big challenge. So we needed another solution.
Jonathan ran a “cult of the imperfect” approach by the group, including notable experts in respiratory therapy. That is a concept that isn’t perfect, but that would work in the time available and is based on the ideas of Robert Watson-Watt. Within a brief time, both of the respiratory specialists recognized the merit of this type of solution, and there began the development towards a working prototype.
This prototype is based on compressed air and medical grade oxygen feeding through solenoids to a central pressurized reservoir, with the patient delivery system utilizing pulse width modulation with a proportional solenoid valve. A core goal also was to use as many standard and readily available components and sensors as possible to enable the fast production ramp-up of the finished product. Multiple companies, but most notably, AirPower, also in Waterford helped with the build and refinement of the physical components while IMR was responsible for the Arduino-based electronics.
As this announcement is released, one working prototype is being shipped to a hospital in Dublin and one to a respiratory physician in California. Should the ventilator pass those two evaluations we expect it to be manufactured as an open-source project with certain limited requirements. Companies are expressing interest in manufacturing and more will hopefully jump on board. This ventilator could then be manufactured globally alleviating some of the strain on our local healthcare systems, not just in Ireland, but everywhere in need. Thank you IMR, Jonathan Downey, and Hilary Murphy for your leadership and innovation in this time of need.