Colombia rushes to make cheap ventilators for COVID patients


BOGOTA – Engineers in Colombia have developed a mechanical ventilator for COVID-19 patients that could cost as little as $ 2,000 – one of many crash projects around the world to help alleviate a global shortage of devices.

The bedside machine is roughly the size of a small television and is made up of valves and pressure sensors that regulate the amount of oxygen pumped into a patient’s lungs through a plastic tube.

It is one of the latest efforts in the world to produce simplified emergency versions of full fans, which have become more expensive as governments try to outbid them.

“Commercial ventilator factories around the world are struggling to keep up with orders,” said Julian Echeverry, a professor of mechanical engineering who helped develop the emergency ventilator at Sabana University in Bogota. “For us, it was crucial to develop an internal solution that can be quickly deployed in (local) hospitals.”

While most people infected with the new coronavirus have only mild to moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, some – especially the elderly and people with existing health conditions – suffer from potentially sickness. fatal, including pneumonia. A small percentage become so sick that they can no longer breathe on their own and need a ventilator. According to the Governor of New York, fans Andrew Cuomo are currently selling for $ 50,000 each.

Growing concerns over fan shortages have prompted engineers around the world to create emergency versions, especially in countries with fewer resources.

In Afghanistan, a female team of robotics experts announced last week that they had created a COVID-19 ventilator made from Toyota parts that will cost $ 400.

In Argentina, the National University of Rosario says it has developed a fan that has fewer than 20 components and has shared its design online.

In Colombia, at least five universities have worked separately on their own fans, and three of them have built prototypes that are already tested to meet standards set by national regulators.

The ventilator produced by Sabana University has been successfully tested on a pig. It still has to undergo further animal and human testing before it can go into production.

But regulators are speeding up the approval process, Echeverry said, and plans for mass production of the fan are already underway.

The Colombian military has announced that it could manufacture up to 80 emergency ventilators per day in a factory that is generally used to manufacture military equipment. The Colombian state government of Cundinamarca has declared that it will order 100 fans from the university once they have been approved by regulatory authorities.

Echeverry said his university is only starting to produce COVID-19 fans as an “emergency measure” and not to become a commercial manufacturer.

Before the virus broke out, he specialized in the design of parts for electric cars and robots. A team led by Echeverry finished second in last year’s RoboCup, a robotic football championship.

“Many universities around the world are now focusing on manufacturing fans,” said Echeverry. “The current situation has forced us to be self-sufficient.”

Manuel Rueda, The Associated Press


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