Trinity researchers build open source ventilator with international non-profit consortium

Posted on: 19 August 2020

A group of volunteers from multidisciplinary professional backgrounds, including medical and engineering and involving those from Trinity, has formed the LibreLabs platform. Inspired by the need to develop new technologies to aid with the COVID-19 crisis, the platform aims to make medical technologies freely available to everyone.

Medical ventilator shortage has been a critical issue throughout the world for decades and this has been put firmly in the spotlight by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, which has tested the limits and reiterated the need to look at the existing medical infrastructure.

The crisis has shown we urgently need to revamp the facilities to cater to the demands of excessive volumes of patients.

The LibreRespire ventilator is one of LibreLabs’ first products, and it was developed to make an affordable, robust, medical-grade, open-source solution freely available to low and middle-income countries, where there is a significant shortage of mechanical ventilators. The LibreRespire ventilator has currently been optimized to meet the EU standards for long term ventilation at hospital Intensive Care Units (ICU’s).

One of the prominent features of this ventilator is the ability to easily customise it based on the local needs. This was achieved by the use of 3D printed parts and components that are easy to source. The project promotes open-source medical hardware development. Therefore, the design materials are publicly available for studying, modifying, distributing, building, and selling the design or hardware.

The system makes use of the existing compressed wall air and oxygen available within a hospital to minimise the mechanical complexity of the ventilator. Currently, the LibreRespire supports both volume control and pressure control modes so that the patient can be supported throughout the treatment process from intubation to weaning.

The heart of the device is a Raspberry Pi 3B+ as it is commonly available and economical. It also paves the way for those who wish to test the system to do so easily and cost-effectively. However, the Raspberry Pi 3B+ will be replaced by a STM32 microcontroller, which is being developed to meet the industry standards.

There are multiple options to communicate with the ventilator: a touch screen; a laptop; or a mobile phone can be used to access the user interface and control the device.

The main feature of the LibreRespire ventilator is the ability to act as a node in the Internet of Things (IoT), communicating via MQTT protocol. The system is capable of remote monitoring and remote control. The physicians can monitor and – if needed – even change the settings.

Eoin Collins from Trinity College Dublin performed the computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis of the ventilator. He said:

“As a recent MAI in Mechanical Engineering graduate I was delighted to collaborate with LibreLabs on their LibreRespire project. I was tasked with a CFD analysis of the ventilator in order to optimise the design for air flow and cost reduction. I gained experience in this area from previous modules in College and my MAI thesis, which also made use of a CFD analysis.”

Trinity’s project coordinators Dr Tim Persoons and Dr Sahan Wasala said:

“It has been a challenging time to conduct a complete research project without physically meeting with each other, especially when the participants are from four different time zones around the world.  Eoin has done excellent work on this fluid dynamic optimisation of the internal components of the ventilator, and the whole project has been a great learning experience for everyone involved.”

Manjula Herath from LibreLabs said:

“The LibreRespire team is thankful to Trinity College Dublin and Malmö University, for the kind support extended in developing the first prototype. Trinity College provided expertise in CFD to improve the flowmeter and flow-mixer designs, with the generous support of a Trinity COVID-19 Response Funding grant. Malmö University supported by optimizing the device for 3D printing and provided expertise on design.”

“In addition to the LibreRespire, LibreLab is currently developing an open-source surgical navigation system for dental implants, maxillofacial and orthopedic surgery. The goal is to create an alternative, open-source medical device manufacturing based on openness, societal needs, access and affordability. If your vision aligns with ours or if you are interested in current products and would like to collaborate with us to liberate any medical device, please stay in touch and join our movement.”

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