Researchers at Simon Fraser University in Canada have developed a low-cost portable ventilator that uses a 3D-printed origami tube rather than a conventional airbag. The volume of the tube can be modified by changing the angles in the origami folding plates. As up to 95% of the components of the ventilator are 3D printable, the device can be created for approximately $200, compared with approximately $2000 for existing portable ventilators.
Ventilators have been a key tool during the COVID-19 pandemic, and shortages have inspired a variety of makeshift and innovative devices that have helped to save lives. While the worst effects of COVID-19 have been blunted by successful vaccination campaigns in many countries, millions of people do not yet have access to the vaccines, and the virus continues causing problems.
In many developing nations, lack of access to vaccines, healthcare facilities, and equipment could make the difference between life and death during the pandemic. There is an ongoing need for low-cost and portable medical equipment to treat COVID-19 patients in such regions, particularly in rural and remote locations.
While this latest technology is designed to be low-cost, it is far from makeshift, employing 3D printing and a unique origami design to create a small and portable ventilator. In the place of a simple bag, the ventilator includes a 3D printed origami tube in which origami folding plates interlock to form a tube that is smaller and stronger than the equivalent component in a conventional ventilator.
During operation, the tube is contracted to assist in breathing. As with so many devices intended for low-resource use, 3D printing was the key to the low cost of the technology. “In our portable origami ventilator, more than 95 per cent of components can be 3D printable, that’s why it is really cost-efficient,” said Woo Soo Kim, one of the developers of the new technology, in a press releas. “Other portable ventilators can cost over $2,000, but our 3D-printed ventilator can be produced for about $200.”
The researchers hope that the technology could assist in low-resource or remote regions, where healthcare resources are scarce. They have partnered with a ventilator manufacturer with a view to scaling up production of the devices.
Study in Flexible and Printed Electronics: 3D architectured air sensing tubes for a portable mechanical ventilator