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MSU engineers develop ventilator prototype

Posted at 7:56 PM, May 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-01 19:56:07-04

EAST LANSING, Mich. — As the fight continues against COVID-19, so does the shortage of supplies, including ventilators.

Michigan State University mechanical engineers discovered a way to build a ventilator using common spare parts.

"The intention is not to replace a medical-grade ventilator," said Ricardo Mejia-Alvarez, part of the MSU Mechanical Engineering School. "You go to your local hardware store and you buy a few PVC pipes and some vinyl hoses. You also need a bucket."

You'll also need what's called an Arduino Microcontroller, which is used to run the ventilator.

"That is the most sophisticated piece, but it's still a cheap option in the market," said Mejia-Alvarez.

Once the controller is programmed the right way, and you have an oxygen tank to help pump the pressurized air, the ventilator starts working.

Mejia-Alvarez says their biggest roadblock so far is releasing it to the public since his work is being done through Michigan State.

"I can't release it myself," said Mejia-Alvarez. "As a public institution we need to follow the guidelines and the restrictions from the government, and of course that means if it's not FDA approved we can't just release it in the United States."

They're in the early stages of testing so far, using a pair of simulated lungs.

Even when testing is done and the ventilator is approved for use in the United States, Mejia-Alvarez says it's smart to have a medical professional help with the machine.

"Pulmonologists and respiratory caretakers understand these things," he said. "If you want to do this on your own and you don't have the proper training, it's at your own risk."

Mejia-Alvarez's team has also put together a more in-depth video of how the ventilator works.

He says his team does not plan to patent the design...And while it hasn't been FDA approved, but it should be available to build and distribute to other parts of the world.

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