2021-01-11. When COVID-19 attacked the world in March 2020, Canada and the world rallied together like never before to wage war against the common enemy.
When COVID-19 attacked the world in March 2020, Canada and the world rallied together like never before to wage war against the common enemy. Some mavericks in the Canadian manufacturing industry, such as Valiant TMS, decided to step out of their comfort zone with the objective of protecting people against the deadly epidemic. As a company that takes ideas and automates them by building connected, optimized and agile production solutions, Valiant TMS , a full-service Industry 4.0 system integrator, decided to convene a task force to do something fast.
The Covid Ventilator Challenge
The word spread that hospitals in the most affected countries such as Italy, were in desperate need of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) gear for first responders as well as medical ventilators and masks for those infected. Valiant TMS brainstormed with their partners to find a way they could use their technology and expertise to contribute to finding solutions amidst this crisis. The goal of their project was to design a low-cost, simple, easy-to-use and easy-to-build ventilator that could serve COVID-19 patients, in an emergency timeframe. Chris LeChien, Application Engineering Manager, Valiant TMS explained his motivation for getting involved in the project as follows: “If we could build this, and even one person survives, we would be happy!”
The BVM Ventilation Solution
Valiant and partners collaborated to develop an actuation system that interfaces with existing manual BVM (Bag Valve Mask) ventilation systems. Some of the partners who made it possible are Shelley Automation, Electra-Tech Manufacturing LLC., Rittal Systems Ltd. (Rittal Canada), San-tron, Inc, Siemens, Machine Guard & Cover Co., Universal Fabricating, FCF Custom Fab Incorporated, UWindsor Engineering, St. Clair College.
The entire team was dedicated to providing expertise, time, manpower and resources. Even direct competitors offered their assistance. The automated bag valve mask actuator, face and intubation shields would not have been possible without the support of the doctors, health care professionals, educational institutions and government officials who provided guidance to bring these initiatives to life.
EPLAN provided the electrical prints for the ventilator, and Valiant decided to use the EPLAN software for its ease of use in providing bill of materials as well as the quick and efficient manner in which it allowed them to generate the behind the scene schematics. Working with EPLAN has help the project progress a lot quicker, which was important because of how dynamic the project was. With traditional products, Valiant typically has ample time to evaluate, research and review. But given the reduced timeframe, they needed a solution that would allow them to make design changes quickly and reliably.
Models of the ventilator were enclosed in medically graded NEMA 4X Stainless Steel Wallmount enclosure from Rittal. These enclosures are IP 66 rated, offering a sealable, “dust tight” panel in the required size, providing the necessary protection against powerful jets of water and easy wipe downs of chemicals. The medical grade of the enclosure was essential because of the environment where the ventilator was going to be used. Rittal is one of the only company offering options with all the proper of certifications to be used in the medical field.
In addition, Valiant was able to rely on its other partners to finalize the production of the ventilator. For example, Shelley Automation contributed a PLC HMI server system and other components and did some of the software work to get the project off the ground quickly and efficiently, as the team could not afford to lose valuable time to international shipping. Medical professionals, local physicians, and respiratory therapists from St Clair College provided valuable counsel and advice such as how to obtain a medical license. Windsor-Essex County had weekly meetings to move the project along. Even competitors like CenterLine were quick to share information to get the solution off the ground
Valiant took a middle-to-high- end approach, as they wanted to build a solution that was affordable and accessible. Thanks to EPLAN, Rittal and others involved, the project took one month to progress from sketch to prototype, before the ventilator was powered on Valiant’s plant floor.
The solution is Servo-powered which drives the cost up marginally, but is more effective in the long run by offering the dynamism and flexibility in control, additional programming ability and overcoming some limitations that a pneumatic solution would pose. It offers a familiar interface for the respiration therapists and is easy to use without additional devices such as a computer. In addition, information can be entered on the HMI screen with real-time adjustment taking place without having to stop the machine which could potentially harm the patient. The data resides within the EPLAN platform, so it is relatively easy to go back, perform maintenance and improve the design as required, without incurring extra costs or wasting unnecessary time and resources.
YouTube video for details about the project:
There are plans to take this solution not just to Canadian medical facilities, but to countries that need it most such as India!
What a great example of how these Canadian companies collaborated ro design and build this much-needed ventilator. The prototype could certainly go a long way in creating new ventilators for the healthcare sector in Canada, to be used in times of crisis!