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Monday, 11 May 2020

Ventilator project aims to aid coronavirus fight

INNOVATION: The global coronavirus pandemic has put manufacturers under increased pressure to produce large numbers of medical ventilators. INNOVATION: The global coronavirus pandemic has put manufacturers under increased pressure to produce large numbers of medical ventilators.

The Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment is collaborating with the Faculty of Health and Wellness Sciences to manufacture medical ventilators which are much needed in the coronavirus fight.

The manufacturing team is headed by the Director of the Adaptronics Advanced Manufacturing Technology Laboratory (Adaptronics AMTL), Professor Oscar Philander.  Members from Adaptronics AMTL include Technical Manager, Mornay Riddles; Logistics and Operations, Eugene Erfort; Electronics and Mechatronics Technologist, Cyprian Onochi; Mechanical Technologist, Lubabalo Matshoba; Technician, Kerwyn Lategan; Artisan, Romeo Arendse and Department of Mechanical Engineering MTech Student, Tristan Edwards.

Other members are Project Consultant and Faculty of Health and Wellness Sciences Acting Dean, Prof Penelope Engel-Hills, and Bachelor of Emergency Medical Care lecturer Louis Jordaan, who is also a Project Technical Adviser.

Philander says that when a desperate need for ventilators was identified in early April, he started looking at what other people were doing and downloaded and studied open-source designs for these devices.

Prof Marshall Sheldon also urged the Adaptronics AMTL to assist in any way with products to help in the fight against the pandemic. Philander then identified three areas, face shields, face masks, and ventilators.  The team has successfully produced both shields and masks using conventional manufacturing processes. “To date, we’ve finalised the design and manufacturing process for the face shield and handed out sample shields for evaluation purposes.”

He states that about 22 of these went to CPUT security staff while six went to doctors and emergency medical services staff on the front line. “So far the feedback on the shields has been positive and we have produced a stock of 150 face shields. Our prototype mask also underwent a cursory review by a medical doctor and he provided valuable feedback on its operation and use. We are currently prototyping the third variant of the face mask that should be ready for testing in about a week.”

Philander adds that the ventilators they are manufacturing are highly sophisticated lifesaving instruments. “Most of the open-source designs are for systems that mechanically depress AmbuBags or Bag Valve Masks (BVM).

“I decided to focus our work on such a system and contacted Prof Penelope Engel-Hills, requesting assistance in procuring a BVM.”

He states that Jordaan delivered a BVM to the Adaptronics AMTL and gave them a short introduction on how the BVM is used in the field and how it could potentially be used as a substitute ventilator when hospitals are overrun with patients desperately needing assisted breathing devices.

“My team is currently in the third iteration of the design and it was decided that we would minimise the amount of moving parts in the design thus making control of it easier. The design goals include varying the volume of air displacement, as well as varying the inspiration and exhalation rates.”

The Grassy Park born professor who enjoys helping communities says the team is finalising the design and will start prototyping soon.  Once the prototype is complete, the device will be tested in collaboration with the Faculty of Health and Wellness Sciences to obtain its specifications and how it could be used in the field.

“This will be a critical phase of the development due to the complexity of its function. More will be shared once we reach this stage,” he remarks.

Written by Aphiwe Boyce


Provides coverage for the Engineering and the Built Environment and Applied Sciences Faculties.