We have all heard the news: ventilators are in a short supply nationwide. Even though many companies have pledged to switch their manufacturing lines to start producing the much needed equipment, it will still be some time before deliveries are made.
Doctors at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, wanted to explore more immediate options to meet the local surge of COVID-19 patients. And they wanted options that didn’t rely on the overburdened supply chain.
A formal call was made for emergency ventilators designed and built by experts in the St. Louis region who had ready access to parts. A team of engineers, scientists, doctors and machinists answered the call to action and delivered their first prototype for clinical simulation this week.
The small team is working together for the first time, powered by a cumulative pile of advanced degrees and willingness to help.
“We are not going to get to perfect,” said Jerry Halley, Chief Engineer at Tech Manufacturing, a Wright City, Missouri, business that makes structural parts for fighter jets, who is overseeing the project. “We want to make sure we get to good enough, cheap enough and effective enough. When Ford and GM really ramp up, they will blow by us. We are trying to fill that middle gap. We can be nimble.”
The team’s first prototype was built with less than $2,000 in parts. It’s two feet tall and shaped like the rounded head of an alligator. At the base of what would be the brain, there’s a piece of PVC pipe that holds and protects the main component of the machine: one self-inflating resuscitation bag.
Resuscitation bags, which are in plentiful supply in St. Louis, are made of clear plastic and shaped like a small football. In a pinch, paramedics, respiratory therapists and anesthesiologists hand pump the bags to help keep people breathing.
Check out more on the project here.