87ºF

UF researchers develop low-cost, open-source ventilator

GAINESVILLE, Fla. – As the need for ventilators grows as hundreds of thousands of patients are expected to need treatment for COVID-19, a University of Florida professor is working to help meet the demand.

UF Professor of Anesthesiology Dr. Samsun Lampotang and a team of UF researchers have developed a ventilator that can be made using items from the hardware store.

As a UF mechanical engineering student decades ago, Lampotang helped respiratory therapist colleagues build a minimal-transport ventilator that became a commercial success. So, when the coronavirus pandemic hit and he heard the desperate international plea for thousands of more ventilators, he set out to build a prototype using plentiful, cheap components that could be copied from an online diagram and a software repository.

Lampotang dispatched David Lizdas, the lead engineer in his lab, to Home Depot to gather items such as air-tight PVC water pipes and lawn-sprinkler valves. Along with engineering and medical colleagues at UF and — through a burgeoning open-source network — places as far-flung as Canada, India, Ireland, Vietnam and Brazil, they raced to “MacGyver” these items and other pieces, including a microcontroller board and a ham radio DC power supply, into an open-source ventilator they expect to make publicly available in a matter of days.

“The way I looked at it is, if you’re going to run out of ventilators, then we’re not even trying to reproduce the sophisticated ventilators out there,” said Lampotang, who works in the UF College of Medicine and is director of UF’s Center for Safety, Simulation & Advanced Learning Technologies. “If we run out, you have to decide who gets one and who doesn’t. How do you decide that? The power of our approach is that every well-intentioned volunteer who has access to Home Depot, Ace or Lowe’s or their equivalent worldwide can build one.”

University of Florida and UF Health faculty pioneer a ventilator made from hardware-store parts

A team from across the University of Florida is creating an open-source ventilator that can be built in 15 minutes for $125. "My sincere wish is that all the effort we are doing is never used," says UF Health/UF Anesthesiology professor Samsun Lampotang "But on the other hand, I think I would be remiss as an engineer and a member of the University of Florida faculty if I don't do anything about it." Open Source Ventilator Project: https://simulation.health.ufl.edu/technology-development/open-source-ventilator-project/

Posted by University of Florida on Friday, March 27, 2020

Lampotang, an inventor with 43 patents belonging to UF, will not try to patent the ventilator, he said. Rather, with UF’s approval, he will provide it “open source” for engineers and hobbyists worldwide as the number of critically ill coronavirus victims continues to climb.

His team is working on adding safety features to meet regulatory guidelines and then they will run engineering tests to determine safety, accuracy and endurance of the machine, which can be built for as little as $125 to $250.

Nonetheless, Lampotang said his wish is that the ventilator won’t be needed during the coronavirus pandemic.

“When all this comes to pass and the world settles down, we hope it will be repurposed for use in underdeveloped countries, so they can build a safe and inexpensive ventilator for themselves," Lampotang said.