EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- As coronavirus cases continue to spread, hospitals worldwide are preparing in case of shortages of necessary equipment like ventilators.
A team of designers from the University of Texas at El Paso and Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso are hoping to help. They have produced a low-cost ventilator that could be used in El Paso's hospitals, as well as in other hospitals across the country.
Dr. Scott Crawford, one of the designers from TTUHSC El Paso, says typical ventilators in hospitals can cost tens of thousands of dollars, while this machine can be built for less than $1,000.
"It is very simple in its design," Dr. Crawford said. "There is no software. There are only two pieces of electronic hardware. The entire casing of the product itself is actually 3D printed, so the plastic is relatively inexpensive and even putting in manufacturing costs, we're able to produce these units for way less than a commercial ventilator might be."
The Texas Breather design was created by Dr. Crawford, alongside retired TTUHSC El Paso faculty member Robert Stump, M.D., Ph.D. and Luis Ochoa, a manager at the W.M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation in UTEP’s College of Engineering. UTEP Keck Center Director Ryan Wicker, Ph.D., also helped put the full resources of the center behind the project.
Another component of the machine that allows for saving on costs is the incorporation of a bag-valve mask device. Such devices are available in large quantities already at hospitals. First responders and emergency health care teams use these to manually provide ventilation to patients who are having difficulty breathing.
The group is currently pursuing emergency use authorization from the FDA and working on plans to produce the machines on a larger scale. Dr. Crawford says it takes about eight hours to produce each one.
"We hope that something like this will never been needed in El Paso," Dr. Crawford said. "Should we ever need additional resources for ventilatory support, a product like this could be put into use here in El Paso, other places in the United States, or honestly anywhere in the world that had resource limitations at that time."