Rochester Institute of Technology is producing a prototype ventilator designed to help meet the surge of respiratory cases as a result of the coronavirus.

Nabil Nasr, associate provost and founding director of the Golisano Institute for Sustainability, said the collaborative project among RIT researchers — working in tandem with regional experts and health care providers — created an emergency prototype ventilator that will help doctors and nurses treat patients with COVID-19.

The prototype ventilator plugs into oxygen sources available in most hospital rooms or a tank. Laboratory testing showed performance meeting clinicians’ requirements for COVID-19 patients.

“This has been a collaborative effort between the project team and the clinicians working together with only one focus: meeting the needs of our community and beyond,” Nasr said.

He credited U.S. Rep. Joe Morelle, D-25th District, with getting the project started after a briefing about the ventilator shortage from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Nasr assembled a team of research engineers and staff at GIS, senior engineers from the Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies and New York State Pollution Prevention Institute, and RIT co-op students.

Led by Michael Thurston, director of the New York State Center of Excellence in Advanced and Sustainable Manufacturing at RIT and technical director and research faculty at GIS, team members worked with project partners to develop the prototype ventilator for production, pending final U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval.

The team identified a simpler portable ventilator, continued to source materials and modified it to fit COVID-19 cases before designing a prototype unit and a manufacturing plan. It was tested and demonstrated for doctors from Rochester Regional Health.

RIT is working with collaborators from the University of Rochester assisting with final FDA approvals and providing feedback on certain ventilator functions.

“The modification of the device needed significant testing and consultation with the clinicians,” he said. “We are at the final phase of testing and units are being produced in small numbers for validation. We expect that we will be ready for a higher number within a few weeks.

“Once we can get the production moving with our manufacturing partners, we could meet the needs of medical facilities in the U.S. and beyond.”

The team working on the prototype ventilator transferred all design knowledge and documentation, as well as prototyped parts, to a large manufacturer to produce the prototype ventilator in high volume.

“The hospitals are the ones on the front lines of this medical battle,” Nasr said. “It has been an emotional rollercoaster to hear their stories and see what the doctors, nurses and patients are going through. It’s been extremely tough. It’s such a crisis.”


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