WPI Researchers Working to Make Automated Ventilators

 by Patrick SargentApril 1, 2020

WORCESTER - Researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute [WPI] are working to turn resuscitators into automated ventilators to help fill the need for life-saving ventilators across the state.

According to WPI, researchers are going to take the inexpensive, hand-held, bag-valve mask [BVM] resuscitators to create the ventilators. Researchers will make designs of multiple devices so that anyone with a 3D printer and an electronics and mechanical engineering background or a manufacturing company could use them to produce ventilators for their local hospitals.

“I just wanted to do something to help,” said Gregory Fischer, professor of robotics engineering and mechanical engineering, and director of the PracticePoint Medical Cyber-Physcial Systems R&D Center, who spearheaded the idea. “A lot of people are trying to contribute, and this is an area where we can make an impact. We’re taking things that are used every day in emergency medicine and finding a way to turn them into safe, reliable, and readily replicable ventilators that can save patients’ lives. And we’re sharing those designs with the world.”

Fischer, a former EMT, received advice from clinicians and then coordinated with different groups of WPI researchers to create their own designs.

The ventilators WPI hopes are built from the designs are not intended to replace a commercial ventilator. Instead, they're meant to be used on more stable patients, so the commercial ventilators can be used on patients in critical condition.

According to WPI, a commercial ventilator costs anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000. A complete ventilator converted from a manual resuscitator with the WPI designs is expected to cost less than $500 and be made with readily available components.

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