The COVID-19 pandemic has uncovered a severe problem of the world´s medical care supply systems: the lack of hospital ventilators. The scarcity of said machines has caused the deaths of thousands of people. Without a solution to this problem, the ravages of coronavirus may likely be worse than anticipated.
That’s why a group of students has changed their thesis project to that of an affordable ventilator. The students began working on March 18th. Their thesis advisor, Professor Raul Quintero at the Escuela de Ingeniería y Tecnologías de la Universidad de Monterrey (School of Engineering and Technology at the University of Monterrey), was inspired by the 2010’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology publication, where they shared the process of making a low-cost artificial ventilator. They made improvements that make the ventilators even more affordable for the Mexican market in this emergency.
Andrés González Ramos, Sergio Caballero Lozano, Omar Beltrán Márquez, and Víctor Cárdenas Domene are the members of the student team that is currently pursuing careers in mechatronics engineering. Mechatronic engineering combines Mechanical, Electrical, and Computer Science fundamentals in the development of autonomous systems.
They didn’t lose any time in putting their collective knowledge together to make a positive change in their community with their project: AMBUDEM-2020. The project was named “Low-cost breathing automation system. For this effort, the director of Mechatronics and Robotics department Hussein De la Torre joined and explained that even if there are a number of institutions currently working on the same project, the UDEM’s design promises to be different.
“We’re proposing a different design. Our initial idea was to assemble a ventilator with the components that exist in Mexico, in other words, to tropicalize the MIT model and that the manual for this project would be available to the general community, but, while they were working building the ventilator, many good ideas came up. So, the design changed quite a bit,” the researcher said.
The ventilator was designed, trying to make it as low cost as possible. There’s an electronic part and a mechanical part to it. The design is simple, any person, even one without previous experience on specialized equipment, can reproduce this ventilator,” Professor Quintero added.
He also said that the materials they used on the prototype are low cost and freely accessible. So, if other people want to recreate it, they won’t run into a problem, and if a company wants to mass-produce it, the costs are manageable. The usual price of a ventilator is between $20-$30 thousand U.S. dollars. The heart of the machine, the AMBU bag or self-inflating bag has a cost between $500 and $800 Pesos (MN), the rest of the materials are less than $2,000 Pesos.
This ventilator can be used in an analog way. It could also function with 12volt batteries, which makes it easier to use in regions that don’t have easy access to electricity or in emergencies.
On the other hand, professor Hussein shared that it’s estimated that Mexico will need about 45,000 ventilators to deal with COVID-19, of which they have about 5,000 at the moment. And he believes that if this ventilator gets to be mass-produced, the first batch would be about 10,000 units.
“There’s a significant initiative by businessmen, academic instructors, and people in industry that want to help in the development and manufacturing of ventilators. It’s a race against the clock. If the virus propagates as predicted, then there’s going to be a significant demand for ventilators. It’s better to have them and not use them than to need them and not have them,” De la Torre commented.
“We used the easiest and simplest way of creating the ventilator. With simplicity comes low costs and fast production,” said Sergio Caballero Lozano.
Source: UDEM (Universidad de Monterrey)