COVID-19 has sparked a demand for ventilators around the world as the number of critically ill patients is rising and even the countries with advanced healthcare systems are struggling to cope with the outbreak. Big companies and small startups around the world are developing low-cost ventilators to help healthcare systems.
NVIDIA’s Chief Scientist Bill Dally has released an open-source design to build a low-cost and easy to assemble ventilator that he believes could be used to treat patients with COVID-19 and other diseases. He designed and developed it in just a few weeks that is built around two easily available components: a proportional solenoid valve and a microcontroller, and he says it can be made for just a few hundred dollars.
In a video released by Dally, said that the device is able to precisely meter the flow and pressure of the air being delivered. “Our philosophy is to build the simplest possible ventilator that could be produced rapidly and inexpensively, but yet meet the needs of treating patients with COVID-19,” he added.
While traditional ventilators cost more than $20,000, the prototype of Dally’s ventilator which has a simple display and packed into a Pelican carrying case was built with off-the-shelf components for about $400, he says if it is made in large number the cost of one could be dropped to $300.
He also says that by using open-sourced and 3D-printed parts its price might drop to below $100.
Dally has successfully tested his ventilator on a lung simulator and is now in the process of applying for an emergency use authorization from the FDA if he gets approval the next major step will be finding a way to manufacture it on large scale.
“I hope that we do not get so many people sick that we run out of ventilators,” Dally told NVIDIA. “But I want to make sure that if we do, something like this is ready.”
Bill Dally is also a professor at Stanford University and collaborated with university colleagues and former students on developing it. As this crisis continues, we will likely see more tech companies and universities stepping up to help in every possible ways they can.