Engineers at NASA/JPL have worked together to build what they describe as a smaller, cheaper and more efficient ventilator to help patients suffering from the effects of the Covid-19 Coronavirus. The VITAL (Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally) was designed with 1/7 the parts of a traditional ventilator
I had the honor of speaking with one of the scientists on the project. Michelle Easter is a Mechatronics Engineer at the JPL lab in La Canada/Flintridge. Easter says this was one of the most rewarding projects of her career, and something that gives her great pride.
Easter says the idea started with Dave VanBuren, a project manager at JPL. She says VanBuren assembled a team that, at one point, reached 100. Easter says because of the Safer at Home Order, she spent a lot time on WebEx and Zoom with other scientists, designers and manufacturers.
Easter says two of the biggest challenges were designing a ventilator that would not disrupt the supply chain of current ventilator manufacturers, and finding the specific parts from around the world needed for this unique design, all within the tight time frame.
Once the VITAL prototype was finished it was sent to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City where it was tested on a high fidelity human patient simulator. Easter says she and her colleagues watched patiently online in real-time as doctors and researchers put the VITAL through its paces.
From concept to completion, the VITAL was built in 37 days and was given emergency approval by the FDA. The blueprints and design are open source and available free of charge to qualified manufacturers.
You can hear Steve's interview here: