At present, the world is suffering from an acute lack of ventilators to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Simply put, there are not enough ventilators for COVID-19 patients in almost any country, and certainly not enough in developing countries that lack the capital and infrastructural resources to produce their own en masse. These countries largely must purchase devices from the same over-extended supply chains that the US and Europe rely on for their ventilators. Under normal circumstances, this is problematic. During a global pandemic, it is a catastrophe in motion.
While there are many simple ventilator designs out there, treating COVID-19 patients requires more sophisticated ventilation—with both pressure and tidal monitoring—in addition to supplying positive exhalatory pressure. One of the enabling technologies used is advanced fan control algorithms to provide more sophisticated ventilator functions using lower performance hardware that is easier to source. Of course, development of this type of control typically results in significant time needed for prototyping on the hardware: time that RespiraWorks doesn’t have.
At RespiraWorks we realized that the software and controls development was hampered by two significant problems: 1) a software and controls team spread around the world without access to the prototype hardware and 2) time. We needed to replace the prototyping on hardware with modeling and simulation. We approached Modelon – who contributed software licenses and man-hours of senior staff who volunteered to help. Within days, we had a model of the ventilator and a simulated patient running on Modelon Impact, using Modelon Pneumatics Library, and could start developing and testing control algorithms. RespiraWorks worked on selecting appropriate physical system design for the state machine, as well as tuning algorithms for tracking patient respiratory effort and controlling fan speed through the breathing cycle. Virtual development significantly decreases time-to-market time. For us, the development duration pushes the boundaries, as we are dealing with time-to-patient urgency. What we have now allows us to share insights and engineering advances within a globally distributed team.
With Modelon Impact, our team members could make design changes to the system model and patient response and see how software changes affected the outcome. This is important because patients in different medical states have different responses in breathing, and the system and controls need to recognize and adapt to provide a safe and comfortable breathing experience. Working with Modelon allows us to develop the hardware while writing controls from half-way around the world. We’ve been impressed by the speed of development, Modelon has been an incredible partner in this effort, and helped our team move faster than we thought possible given these extreme circumstances.
While there is still an incredible amount of work to be done, it is also incredible to see what talented, motivated organizations can do together.
RespiraWorks is an actively growing team of medical professionals, engineers, computer scientists, and good samaritans applying their skills and resources to coordinate a response to the critical lack of ventilators that will acutely affect the developing world in the coming months.
We are making sure our equipment meets standards set by the medical community by consulting with pulmonologists, respiratory therapists, critical care doctors, and a bevy of emergency room doctors and nurses. We are doing our best to design within ISO standards for equipment and design processes, balanced against the pressing circumstances of our time.
Our website, https://respira.works/, offers a list of resources, including how to contact us regarding collaboration and consultation— we are always looking for more professionals in the field, especially if you’re interested in contributing to the work above.
We’re also shifting from development to limited production, and standing up our operation in Guatemala! You can help us by donating. https://www.gofundme.com/f/open-source-pandemic-ventilator.
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