As the COVID-19 pandemic gains momentum, the supply of ventilators is becoming increasingly scarce. According to a report from Imperial College London, 30% of patients hospitalised need mechanical ventilation. Many multinational corporations, including Medtronic and Dyson, are increasing shifts and staffs to produce ventilators to meet the surplus demand. However, an ingenious idea from UCD academic Colin Keogh holds promise in combating the ventilator shortage – an open source blueprint for 3D printing emergency ventilators.

The open source project design brings together experts from around the world including engineers, scientists and medical professionals. All the developments in prototypes are available online, in accordance with the open source ideals. 

The Field Emergency Ventilator is composed of basic, safe parts that will be sourced locally. It consists of a bag valve mask – a manual resuscitator which allows high intake of oxygen. Additional design requirements for those developing the prototype include: 

-user specified breaths/min via a button

-humidity exchanger built into the mask 

-alarms for loss of power 

-supply pure air 

-ability to sense when a patient is not breathing

-low cost to build (less than $100) and minimal power requirement 

Many of the parts are 3D printed, allowing anyone from around the world with a 3D printer to develop the prototype. 3D printing, a relatively new technology, has revolutionised manufacturing. Firstly, it involves creating a 3D blueprint with Computer Aided Design (CAD) software. The printer is filled with materials such as a plastic filament. The nozzle layers the materials sheet by sheet to form the desired object. 

Keogh acknowledged that the challenge had been thrilling but hoped that hospitals would never have to use the ventilator he developed. “It’s seen as an emergency intervention,” he said. “We hope we’ll be able to cope.” If you would like to get involved go to to register your interest.


Athaliah Fubara  – Science Writer