Working towards 3D-printed ventilators
As many under-resourced parts of the world suffer from a lack of ventilators, Malmö University researchers have joined an international network that hopes to enable the production of this life-saving equipment at a low cost.
The aim is to produce designs for some of the key components of the devices which can be used to manufacture the ventilator from 3D-printouts — the designs will be free to download. It is hoped that, after testing, this plan can be rolled out within two years.
The pandemic has shown that the lack of ventilators could be a problem in many parts of the world, for example in my home country of Sri Lanka.
A group of volunteers in various specialist fields, including dentistry, medicine, and engineering, have formed the LibreLabs platform. The action was prompted after COVID-19 showed the need to be able to help patients through the development of new technology. The purpose of the collaboration is to make medical technology accessible to all.
“The pandemic has shown that the lack of ventilators could be a problem in many parts of the world, for example in my home country of Sri Lanka,” says Manjula Herath, an oral and maxillofacial doctoral student at the Faculty of Dentistry.
The aim is to make a sustainable and affordable solution that is made available for production in low and middle-income countries, where there is a significant shortage of ventilators.
“It will be a ventilator that lives up to the European medical technical standard, and that works for long-term use. We are not there yet, but that is our goal," says Herath.
Together with colleague Lisa Papia, senior lecturer and dental technician, he has developed a design for 3D-prints of some of the key components found in a respirator. Researchers at Trinity College Dublin have contributed with computer simulations.
In total, about 15 researchers are included in the project. “We produce the drawings and create files. Based on them, you should be able to make ventilators yourself,” says Papia.
A first prototype will undergo a quality assessment in Peradeniya, Sri Lanka by an independent party to see if the equipment works as intended. Herath and Papia believe that this will be ready within six months.
Changes will probably need to be made, and they consider it realistic that an approved ventilator can be in place within two years.
“To be able to get there, we need financing, which is something we are working with. A commercially manufactured ventilator today costs around 10,000 dollars or more, and we believe that ours can be manufactured for around a tenth of that cost," Herath explains.