Jun 7, 2021 4:02:18 PM | 4 Min Read

How Systium Helped the U of M Build Innovative, Low-Cost Ventilators for COVID-19

Posted By
Will Rogers
How Systium Helped the U of M Build Innovative, Low-Cost Ventilators for COVID-19

In the spring of 2020, SySTIUM® had the opportunity to get involved with a ventilator project the University of Minnesota was working on. The surge of patients needing ventilators in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic quickly resulted in widespread equipment shortages, so a research team at the U of M were working to develop a low-cost backup alternative for clinical settings lacking enough ventilators to treat their patients. When they contacted us looking for quick turn prototypes for some of the necessary parts to build their ventilator, we jumped at the chance to be part of a much-needed solution.

The U of M’s Innovative, Low-Cost Ventilators for COVID-19

This low-cost mechanical ventilator is called the Coventor. It was the first of its kind to receive FDA Emergency Use Authorization for the COVID-19 pandemic. Designed as an option for clinical settings where traditional ventilators are not available, the Coventor is easy for any ICU-trained medical provider to use. Unlike traditional mechanical ventilators, it doesn’t require a pressurized oxygen or air supply. Instead, according to the U of M’s website: the ventilator “consists of a frame and mechanical actuator that will stabilize and compress an ambulatory ventilation bag connected to the patient’s endotracheal tube and external compressed oxygen, or if oxygen is not available, ambient air.”

The Coventor was created by Stephen Richardson, a cardiac anesthesiology fellow in the U of M Medical School. He put together the prototype in an afternoon, using, among other parts, a common ambulatory ventilation bag (used by paramedics to manually resuscitate patients), a motor taken from another device, and a metal toolbox tray for the base. With the help of a team of U of M researchers, Richardson developed the final product from there. 

This compact machine (about the size of a cereal box) was designed to be highly scalable, so it could be quickly and easily built and distributed at a fraction of the cost of a traditional hospital ventilator. To help meet the immediate global need for ventilators, the University made the Coventor’s specifications open source so manufacturers worldwide could produce them.

Doing Our Part: How SySTIUM® Got Involved 

As the U of M team was developing the Coventor, they were looking for a supplier that could quickly turn around prototypes for some of the machine’s necessary parts. They needed to ensure the ventilator would work in testing trials, so time was of the essence. Most manufacturers were unwilling to do low-volume prototypes, but SySTIUM® is set up to provide this service, so we jumped at the chance to help out.

We provided three parts that were used as bushings or gears to aid in the ventilator’s function. All three parts demonstrate our CNC machining capabilities using plastic and metal. Because of our ability to quick turn prototypes, we were able to design and deliver these custom parts in less than 3 days.

Considering the great need for these ventilators to combat the COVID-19 crisis, we decided to offer these prototypes to the U of M at no cost. We felt fortunate to be involved in such a vital project and to be given the opportunity to do our part by donating them.

When we’re not donating parts to the U of M, we’re busy making custom enclosures and other products to support technological product design and integration.

If you have a project that needs a quick turn prototype, SySTIUM® can help. We have the capability to design and deliver products to support the unique requirements of any project. Contact us today!

Topics: Case Study

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