In the last few weeks, we've seen novel design ideas for manufacturing low-cost ventilators crop up. Automobile manufacturers like Tesla have used car parts to build them while companies like Maingear have employed desktop PC casings in the LIV ventilator. Now, a team in Colombia is set to test a ventilator made using Raspberry Pi computers and off-the-shelf components.
Seeing the global spike in demand for ventilators courtesy of COVID-19, a robotics engineer, Marco Mascorro, ventured into making the machines himself. Mascorro used easy-to-source components that could be found at car and plumbing supply stores. At the heart of his machine is a lightweight Raspberry Pi computer, which controls the air pressure, valves, and the level of breathing assistance offered by the ventilator. The architecture and source code are all open-source and were posted online last month.
Considering the lower cost of the Mascorro's ventilator when compared to traditional ventilators, a Colombian team is looking forward to putting the machine through its works. It will undergo testing in two places, the University Hospital of the Pontifical Xavierian University and Los Andes University in Bogota—the capital city of Colombia.
"Anything that can provide a backup can be helpful, but it has to be properly tested to see if it can deliver the oxygen and pressure support," said Dr. Albert Rizzo, who is the Chief Medical Officer for the American Lung Association. But Dr. Rizzo was hopeful that the Mascorro's design could yield potent ventilators in the future, regardless of the current testing.
As part of the testing phases, the proposed ventilator will run continuously for a period of five days ventilating a set of artificial lungs. If the equipment passes these tests, it will undergo animal trials as the next part of the testing. After this stage, the group hopes to start human trials come May. If things go according to plan, the plan is to initiate mass-production and employ the ventilators in hospitals by mid-2020.