This blog post on great design is going to be a little different, but I am writing this in isolation amid the Coronavirus outbreak, so I feel that it is very relevant. This post will be focused on the open source ventilator project that has brought together over 300 medical professionals, engineers, designers and researchers to design a quick to manufacture, cheap and accessible ventilator so that hospitals can keep up with the demands caused by the virus.
Ventilators are an essential part of treating seriously ill patients with the Coronavirus, and if the virus spreads to the extremes that it has the potential to, health services around the world could very well come under critical shortages of the equipment. A group of entrepreneurs and designers from Ireland set up OSV (Open Source Ventilator), a public group on Facebook, to share expertise and knowledge around the world. Within a week they had a ventilator prototype designed and produced, made of 3D printed parts and readily available, inexpensive materials. An example of the ventilators is shown below, this one designed and built by Jeff Ebin. It is made from parts you can easily salvage from other bits of equipment, or found at any hardware store.
This prototype is now under validation by the Irish Health Services Executive, which will clear it to be used in Ireland if it passes. Ironically Ireland seems to be one of the more prepared nations in terms of medical hardware, but the validation of the ventilator could be a key stamp of approval that would allow it to be used across the world, particularly in developing nations where they are not fortunate enough to have well-stocked ventilator hardware.
Since the OSV group have got their ventilator to the validation stage, they have rebranded the group to the OSCMS (Open Source COVID19 Medical Supplies) and have widened their scope to aid in the development of any Coronavirus related medical supplies. You can find their page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/opensourcecovid19medicalsupplies/. As I am writing this, the group has 36,485 members and is ever-growing. The most recent post was from a group of seamstresses in Vietnam who have started to manufacture face masks for their health workers. Within a few hours the post had 77 responses of people sharing concepts and ideas for the design. If this is the progress that can be made in just a number of hours, it is exciting to consider what will have been achieved after a month.
All of these designers are working totally without personal gain and without making any profit, so it is incredible that a working and reliable machine has been designed in such a small amount of time. It just goes to show what is achievable when heads come together for the greater good, but I think it is a shame that is has required an international crisis to facilitate a project such as this. I think the recent pandemic that we are in the midst of at the moment is going to continue to bring out the best in humanity as people are brought together in ways that would not have happened before. Outside of the design world, teachers have been offering their services to make up for schools being closed down, cafés and shops have been offering free or reduced snacks for NHS workers (shameless plug for my father’s website that I have been working on..), and even people on the street seem to be looking out for each other. Yesterday I went down to the café at the end of my street, picked up a coffee and sat in the sun. A middle-aged lady nearby immediately asked me how I was getting on and how I had been affected. Neighbours have been looking out for their community, doing food shops and making sure those in isolation are being looked after. It may seem like a crisis, which undoubtedly it is, but I think we as a community will gain a lot from the experience, and we will be a stronger population at the other end.