MIT Works on an Emergency Ventilator (E-Vent) Project
Tom Spendlove posted on March 27, 2020 |
Engineers at MIT are developing solutions to ventilator shortages.

Engineers at MIT are working to help solve the anticipated shortage of ventilators during the COVID-19 epidemic. A team of engineers, medical professionals and logistics specialists are trying to answer one question: if “almost every bed” in a hospital is equipped with an artificial manual breathing unit (AMBU) bag, can these bags be safely automated to ventilate COVID-19 patients?

The project is called the MIT E-Vent, and while the team realizes that this cannot replace FDA-approved ventilators in intensive care units, it could help to mitigate shortages or be used in life-and-death situations. A standard engineering approach was taken for the E-Vent’s design, with developing the minimum requirements for a low-cost ventilator as the first step. Iterative design cycles involved creating a design and prototype based on these requirements, then the team tested and communicated the results with the stakeholder community.

One of the end products for this project is a set of tools for makers or manufacturers to safely build the ventilators. Four main deliverables are “minimum safe ventilator functionality based on clinical guidance,” hardware design reference material, electronics and control design material, and test results from animal models.

The current 002 prototype shown on the E-Vent Mechanical page has an 80/20 and acrylic frame, which was fabricated using laser cutters and waterjet equipment. Design guidelines required that the device be fail-safe so that a stopped system could still ventilate a patient manually, be a simple fabrication, produce light wear on the ventilator’s bag and hoses, and include adaptable drive options to allow many different motors to be used. Over on the E-Vent Controls and Electrical Design page, two operation modes are identified—volume control for patients who are sedated or paralyzed, and assist control that senses and provides assistance when a patient attempts to breathe in. Parameters in the control system include breaths per minute, tidal volume, inspiration to expiration ratio, and trigger pressure.

MIT stresses that this is not the only crowdsourcing project that is working to quickly create simple ventilator solutions, and the E-Vent Resources page points to other colleges and maker communities that are working to combat the device shortage. Seeing engineers working to save the world is an inspiring thing, and this experiment in online development and distance education might affect product development processes long after we’ve passed the COVID-19 crisis.

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