In response to the Covid-19 crisis in South Africa, a team of engineers and healthcare practitioners from the University of Johannesburg (UJ) aim to create low-cost open-source ventilators, reports Randburg Sun.
According to the team from the Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment, the Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the skills shortage in facility and technical equipment maintenance at healthcare facilities in South Africa, and Africa at large.
Led by Dr Deon Sabatta and Dr Samson Masebinu, the group has identified several simple, safe and scalable open-source designs that could meet the strict specifications for use on patients once these designs are further developed and tested.
According to a statement by the university, by building on open-source designs, the team has developed a viable product which requires minimal effort to install or upgrade operating software and can be manufactured using parts produced using 3D printing and laser cutting.
“These designs will support the development of the critical control systems that protect a patient who is supported by a ventilator,” read the statement.
Sabatta added that ventilators were more intricate than they appear.
“Our product includes devices such as pressure sensors, flow sensors and a number of control algorithms. It can, therefore, be set up to perform more advanced ventilation tasks such as Pressure Support Ventilation (PSV) or Synchronous Intermittent Mandatory Ventilation (SIMV),” he said.
“This is a step up in ventilation support as it is able to assist patients further when they are tiring from being on Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) systems for extended periods of time,” Sabatta added.
The university’s Process Energy and Environmental Technology Station (UJ-Peets) is supporting efforts to identify decommissioned ventilators at public and private healthcare facilities to bring equipment that is out of commission back online.
“Through our repair and maintenance undertaking, this assignment will build on the principles of circularity and create employment opportunities as there is a large amount of equipment that can be repaired and calibrated for reuse, especially beyond our borders,” Masebinu explained.
Masebinu added that the healthcare sector remains in a critical state which is why the team are proud to play a role in helping to produce and refurbish these critical life-saving devices.
The team invites industry partners, researchers and practitioners in the clinical technical services sector to join forces to fast track research and prototype development, and support critical maintenance activities to ensure that the project can be scaled and replicated on the continent.