Adaptable emergency ventilator created by local team now in testing phase

SAN ANTONIO – A local team continues to work towards its goal of building an affordable portable ventilator.

Skunkworks SA, which is a team of makers from CANopener Labs, San Antonio District 1 Councilman Roberto Trevino, specialized doctors and other members, have finalized the prototype of their adaptable emergency ventilator (AEV) and have now moved into the testing phase.

“I think we've covered all the bases, and we're certainly very, very happy about the point that we're in, but certainly, we're not at the finish line.,” Trevino said. “There's a lot more work left to be done. We're fine-tuning this machine right now.”

The AEV is a manual resuscitator turned into a battery-operated portable ventilator for a cost of about $500.

Drue Placette, with CANopener Labs, said the goal was to make the device simple, affordable and accessible. The control panel has a rate and volume button and even a backup battery system.

“We've purposely chosen parts that can easily be readily available within 24, 48 hours,” Placette said.

The next phase begins next week -- testing. Dr. Erika Gonzalez is coordinating the use of the testing equipment with UT Health San Antonio. She said the device will be put into a mannequin that simulates breathing under any type of stress, including COVID-19, to see how the machine works. The ventilator and battery pack will need to be tested for days at a time.

About a dozen devices are currently being manufactured to be tested.

If the AEV proves its effectiveness, the hope is that hospitals will consider using them for emergency use. Approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is still in the works.

The team said the use of this device will extend beyond this pandemic, and they’re pretty proud of the work they've done so far.

“This has truly been a local team about helping their local community,” Trevino said.

They think fire departments and first responders could eventually have the machines to replace the manual ones, which could free up their hands to continue working on a patient.


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