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Rapidly deployable ventilator prototype developed amid COVID-19 shortage

23 March 2020

An interdisciplinary team of engineers and medics is addressing ways to increase the UK’s capacity for ventilator manufacture.

Prototype of the deployable ventilator (Image: King's College London)

Engineers, anaesthetists and surgeons from King’s College London and the University of Oxford are building and testing prototypes that can be manufactured using techniques and tools available in well-equipped universities and small and medium enterprise (SME) workshops.

The team, led by Dr Federico Formenti, King’s, and Oxford Professors Andrew Farmery, Mark Thompson and Alfonso Castrejon-Pita, have been working to define novel mechanisms of operation that will meet the required specifications for safe and reliable function. The design aims to exploit off-the-shelf components and equipment.

The researchers are working in response to the UK government’s call to increase the country’s ventilator manufacturing capacity due to COVID-19. Demonstrating safety and reliability and achieving regulatory approval of the opensource design will be necessary and, once this has been achieved, the approach could unlock the potential for a new kind of distributed manufacturing effort.

Prototype of the deployable ventilator

Government coordination and ongoing rapid competitive selection of the best design concepts will enable universities, SMEs and large industry to make and assemble these ventilators close to their local NHS services. This may allow local scaling according to demand, and reduce stress on NHS distribution.

King’s have offered the use of their workshops to manufacture/3D print bespoke components.

“Thinking beyond the current pandemic, we are also aiming to share the know-how and refinement of this relatively inexpensive approach with other countries,” says Dr Federico Formenti, School of Basic and Medical Biosciences at King’s.

Professor Thompson, Oxford’s Department of Engineering Science, says: ‘This extraordinary situation demands an extraordinary response and we are pulling all the talents together in an exceptional team – combining decades of experience translating research into the clinic, brilliant innovators, and highly skilled technicians.’

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