Noted teardown expert iFixit has placed a call for the crowdsourcing of repair information for hospital equipment, particularly ventilators, as a means of keeping devices running for longer under the strain of increasing COVID-19 cases.
While projects like Open Source Ventilator are turning to the maker community to crowdsource a brand-new quick-to-manufacture design for ventilators, as the SARS-COV-2 virus continues to spread and the COVID-19 disease increases demand on hospital equipment beyond that which is available, iFixit is taking a different approach: Crowdsourcing information that will allow existing ventilators to be more easily and quickly repaired and maintained in the event of parts shortages or overwhelmed manufacturers.
"Ventilators are machines that mechanically breathe for patients who are too weak to breathe for themselves. With COVID-19, many patients develop acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). The WHO clinical management guidance recommends oxygen, and when that doesn’t work, mechanical ventilation," claims iFixit's Kyle Weins in a call to arms. "We are learning from China and Italy that these crucial ventilators are being heavily utilized — many ventilators are running non-stop.
"Due to heavy use and accelerated wear and tear, these lifesaving machines are breaking down. Biomedical technicians (biomeds for short) are the repair experts at hospitals, and in many regions they are stretched thin. There are a wide variety of machines made by a number of different manufacturers at hospitals around the world, and there is no single resource for how to repair all of them. We don’t know how many machines will fail once hospitals are truly taxed. We don’t know which parts of those machines are most at risk."
The solution: The deployment of a central resource for maintenance and repair of hospital equipment, including ventilators. "We need help from fixers everywhere, medical professionals, and biomedical technicians," Weins explains, "to make sure this is as robust, relevant, and useful as possible.
"What we need from the medical community: Model numbers of all of the ventilators in use, BiPAP machines that can do double-duty as ventilators, and other essential equipment such as anaesthesia machines; Estimates on what parts or pieces of ventilators break, or might break, assuming an increased duty cycle; Advice on what parts that will need to be reused but will be in short supply. For example, bacterial filters will probably become scarce — can we design a 3D-printed case that we could clamshell an N95 mask into for a DIY replacement?"
Those who aren't in the medical community but still want to help are asked to hunt down service manuals for medical equipment, and to assist with organising and building out detailed device pages alongside reformatting service manuals that have been found into more readily-searchable and easily-digestible formats. "We’re going to break them up into useful guides," Weins continues. "We'll keep the full service manual online, but pull out the relevant sections so that they are easy to find and access.
"This equipment is all functional right now, so let’s make sure we also have guides and advice on preventative maintenance and cleaning procedures to keep them running smoothly."