Washington, the state currently with the most number of cases and deaths and has only an estimated 3300 ventilators, far short of the number of potential cases needing intensive care should the pandemic continue to grow.
A 2005 federal government report estimated that in the event of a pandemic like the 1918 flu, we would need mechanical ventilators for 740,000 patients. Currently 160,000 ventilators are available for patient care.— Washington Post
We are currently focusing on flattening the curve, but even then the number of infections could still be significantly higher than the available infrastructure. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals and companies around the world have contributed their efforts into designing critical medical devices to meet the shortage around the world.
To alleviate the shortage of medical equipment, there are two approaches which can be taken. We can work on ramping up production of existing models of ventilators and medical and we can also work on creating new prototypes which can utilize more available parts or less complex mechanics. In many advanced countries, ramping up production is a very feasible approach and allows increased availability which are suitable for more complex conditions. This, however, may not be the case for many other countries, which have more limited funds and access to the industries which can produce such devices. For those countries and for organizations which have limited funding, a simpler design of these machines can make a material difference in their ability to combat this pandemic.
Warning: Devices used in a medical setting will have real consequences to both their improper design and use. Malfunctions and incorrect behavior of these devices have and will directly lead to permanent harm and death of patients. Use medically certified equiptment when available.
We explore technology behind three key medical devices for a respiratory pandemic situation like we are experiencing right now - the oxygen concentrator, the ventilator, and the respirator and powered air purifying respirator (PAPR) and the designs to create simplified machines that perform the core functions of each of these machines from as commonly available material as possible. The oxygen concentrator and ventilator are key equipment for stabilizing patients needing critical care from respiratory infections. Respirators are important for medical staff working with sick patients for a prolonged period of time. And since there is such high demand for disposable respirators, we are looking for ways to build respirators from materials that have greater availability.