There are not enough ventilators available in hospitals or from any supplier for all the potential patients who will be struck by the virus. Our group, in active collaboration with CUT, is working tirelessly to manufacture and distribute these supplies to clinics and hospitals. The main project of the team is to reverse-engineer the BIRD Mark 7 or 8 mechanical respirator to allow it to be used as an emergency ventilator.

The team chose this particular device due to its ability to work without electricity, since it is powered by air, a characteristic that is crucial in South Africa. The aim is to produce an open-source 3D-printable version of the BIRD mechanical ventilator. The team will also need to update some parts to conform to the current minimum specifications listed by the World Health Organisation.

Our approach is different from the original BIRD Mark 7 or 8, where the “heart” of the product was manufactured using the high-pressure Aluminium die-casting process, which needs fairly expensive tooling. So the key component is being redesigned for Additive Manufacturing (3D Printing), which then can be produced on demand. It may be necessary to follow the same approach with a few more parts, in parallel with “soft tooling” to produce injection-moulded diaphragms, which are crucial for flow and volume control, and to create a “pulse” effect, which simulates the natural breathing process.

We firmly believe that this can be a solution for Africa and not only South Africa. we would, therefore, definitely export some to other African countries. It’s difficult to say when production can start as there is still a number of regulatory and logistical hurdles to overcome.

For information about the ventilator re-engineering and telemonitoring: Leenta.Grobler@nwu.ac.za

News articles

NWU engineers rising to the Covid-19 challenge

The world, and now more recently our nation, is faced with difficult times as the recent Covid-19 pandemic turns life as we know it upside down. A team at the Faculty of Engineering from the North-West University (NWU), in collaboration with other experts involved in this unsettling battle, is rising to the challenge to support our government in its fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. Read more

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