Now that the corona crisis has become a truly global event, the call for more ventilator units is universal. In some cases, governments have even ordered manufacturers to switch production from things like cars to ventilators. They do save lives, but the cost of such a delicate piece of engineering is prohibitive, at 40,000 euros or more. And it will take a long time to produce all the units needed. For this reason, there are several initiatives around the globe to develop cheaper alternatives. One such alternative is the VentilatorPAL, that has been designed by engineers from Nijmegen university in the Netherlands.
The tech company FreeBreathing is behind the VentilatorPAL. It’s a basic device that can be assembled fairly quickly and easily, and according to the designers this can be done “by anyone with basic tools and some technical ability.” Best news is that the VentilatorPAL only costs 370 euros a piece. With a price tag like that, the VentilatorPAL could well mean the difference between life or death for many people in developing economies.
The VentilatorPAL operates with two interfaces. The first one is a physical interface on the device itself, that allows medical professionals to adjust three fundamental settings: Tidal Volume (TV), Inhale/Exhale ratio (I/E) and Respiratory Rate (RR). The second interface operates via an app on a smartphone, which can also be operated by non-medically trained persons. Presently this app is only available for Android-based phones.
Currently the Ventilator PAL is undergoing the certification process in both the Netherlands and Spain. When this process is completed, the design and building instructions will be shared open source through the website www.freebreathing.org, including medical and technical information as well as an FAQ.
Visit the website of FreeBreathing. It is even possible to pre-order a VentilatorPAL.
Watch a video in which dr. Hugo Touw from Radboudumc in Nijmegen explains how VentilatorPAL works.
The Nijmegen initiative is not the only one of this kind. At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston, USA, a similar ventilator is being developed.