— Robert L. Read, January 2021

In 2020 something happened that we had been warned about: the COVID-19 pandemic scourged the whole planet. I will not repeat the statistics here, except to say two things: many loved ones died before their time, and it would have been much worse if society had not responded vigorously.

Almost everyone did fight the pandemic. For every one person that denied the science or preferred a strong economy and massive casualties to social distancing, there were dozens more who stood up and did what they could, from wearing a mask to bringing food to…

— Ben Coombs (guest blogger for Public Invention)

As to diseases, make a habit of two things — to help, or at least to do no harm. — written by Hippocrates in Epidemics.

A Diagram of Major Humanitarian Engineering Efforts (Link allows zooming)

Early in 2020 the alarm bells rang out. All across the world people tuned into news about a virus that was spreading like wildfire through a little-known city now known to everyone — Wuhan. Quickly the city quarantined and rapidly built temporary hospitals in an effort to quell the outbreak. The world watched with bated breath, only…

Thursday, May 21st, Public Invention will host a short, free virtual conference about open source pandemic ventilators and the world-wide effort to prevent shortfalls and save lives. HelpfulEngineering and Make Magazine are co-hosting it; we have a great set of speakers giving 15-minute talks on a 3.5 hour schedule. I hope it will be a lot of information in a short time. The theme is: “Towards Cooperation in the Pandemic Ventilator Mid-Game.”

To join the conversation now, join the HelpulEngineering VentCon slack channel. Register to receive the Zoom links when available.

The program is arranged to tell a story. I’d…

— by Robert L. Read, Jenny Filipetti

This article is meant to be read by the engineers and NGOs communally attempting to address the world-wide shortfall of ventilators caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, or those facing similar future emergency scenarios.

In the last month the engineering community as a whole seems to have become a humanitarian engineering community, building upon the foundations laid by non-profits such as HelpfulEngineering.org and Engineers Without Borders. The Maker movement has succeeded in providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to medical workers around the world. Making a ventilator is two orders of magnitude more difficult than…

Rob Giseburt’s “Air Drive” smart ventilator module

Rob Giseburt, with the support of his firm Ten Mile Square, has published two long, informative, and extremely important blog posts (part 1 and part 2.) Public Invention has added “The Pressurizer” at the top of our spreadsheet of open-source ventilators and modules on the tab called “Drives”.

In a previous essay, Dr. Erich Schulz and I stated:

A dumb bag-squeezer simply won’t do the job we need doing in this pandemic.

The problem is not the bags; it is the lack of intelligence. You have to have sensors to support spontaneous breathing to make a ventilator that is logistically…

A Universal Model of Ventilators

— Dr Erich Schulz, MBBS, FANZCA and Robert L. Read, PhD

For about the last six weeks, engineers have been scrambling to design ventilators that can be produced quickly in huge numbers to address an anticipated shortfall. At the same time, major manufactures have ramped up production and formed partnerships with automobile companies and others to increase production. Because the scope of the pandemic depends on contentious social policies, the future is uncertain in wealthy nations and doubly uncertain in the less wealthy nations.

From the outset there has been uncertainty regarding the best treatment protocols and overall case mortality.

— Alex Izvorski and Robert L. Read

Alex’s test lung set up

Teams building and testing ventilators for COVID-19 need to have “test lungs”. The term “test lung” sometimes means a physical air-tight container with sophisticated instrumentation added, but here we mean just the physical container without the instruments. A test lung is a simulator of a real pair of lungs, but made in such a way that it has standard and stable physical properties. In particular, it should press against air inside it when inflated, just like real lungs, which is called compliance. It should oppose air from moving in or out too fast…

— Robert L. Read and Nariman Poushin

The Corovamp abstract ventilator model.


In just the last four weeks, thousands of engineers have self-organized around the problem of designing, testing, manufacturing and deploying ventilators to address a present and possibly worsening shortfall of mechanical ventilators required by the unusually virulent and transmissive COVID-19 pandemic.

An even greater effort has worked to provide personal protective equipment, as is fitting; we each have our own way of helping. As is also fitting, large firms have begun manufacturing ventilators, and existing manufacturers have increased production, either by themselves or in partnerships. This increase in production may meet the need…

Last week, the first week in April, 2020, two projects, AmboVent and Apollo BVM released open-source designs for last-resort pandemic ventilators. They (and other fully open teams) deserve our profound thanks. At EndcoronaVirus.org and Public Invention, we have been maintaining a spreadsheet which seeks to give some visibility into the many open source projects underway right now. Both of these projects are fully documented and highly reproducible, and can be easily manufactured. Policy makers, NGOs, and governmental officials may want a quick comparison beyond the evaluation we provide in our spreadsheet.

Open-source ventilator designers will want to study these projects…

I am not a doctor.

Dave Empey, Registered Respiratory Therapist (RRT), brought this to my attention.

The UK has released an influential standard for a Rapidly Manufactured Ventilator System(s). It sets a standard of minimal features for treating COVID-19 patients. It says 100% oxygen is required as a minimum requirement.

Medtronic has released, under a license strictly limited to the pandemic, open source plans and software for a ventilator, the Puritan Bennett (PB) 560. In theory this would allow 3rd parties to produce this ventilator to address the current and expected shortage of critical care ventilators for the huge numbers…

Robert L. Read

Public Inventor. Co-founder of @18F. Presidential Innovation Fellow. Agilist.

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