Trine University team engineers possible emergency alternative for ventilators

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ANGOLA, Ind. (WANE) — Faculty and staff at Trine University have found a way to modify a manual resuscitator as an emergency backup ventilator if needed.

A team of faculty and staff from the school’s Innovation 1 group has been working with Parkview Health to find alternatives to medical items that are in limited supply, like ventilators. One team from Trine has figured out how to modify an manual resuscitator, also known as an Ambu bag, to automatically pump air into a patient, should a ventilator be unavailable.

They did this by developing a secondary machine that could pump the bag in place of a human hand, but Innovation1 Exec. Director Jason Blume said it was more complicated than just figuring out how to get the Ambu bag to pump air on its own. The machine has seen several iterations as Parkview has advised them on what functions the hospitals need it to perform, such as allow for varying lung capacity or number of breaths per minute.

“Over the course of the last eight days we have learned what sensors, alarms and variable controls are needed to make it a more technical piece of equipment that a respiratory technician can actually utilize in a hospital setting,” Blume said.

The team will test the machine on an artificial lung to make sure it will work as required to be a valid replacement for a ventilator. If everything performs as planned, Parkview will contact the Food and Drug Administration to see if the product can be fast-tracked to production. Trine said the components used to make the machine were things found around Trine’s lab, and that they were pieces that could be easily manufactured by vendors in the area.

Another team from Trine is currently working on developing 3D-printed hard-shell masks with a replaceable respirator filter that healthcare workers could sanitize and reuse. They plan on testing prototypes with clinicians soon to make sure they seal properly and are comfortable.

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