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When a million confirmed cases of VIDOC-19 went through the United States, demand for fans increased dramatically.

Pitt and the Robotics Institute of Carnegie Mellon University have joined forces to address the shortage of fans due to the pandemic. They plan to produce a cheap disposable robot fan, an alternative to the more expensive traditional mechanical fan. The cost of the Robofan is about $500, which is much less than a conventional fan, which can cost between $30,000 and $50,000.

The project planning started in March and is currently in the pre-sale and public funding phase. Jason Rose, Associate Professor of Medicine and Biomedical Engineering at, , said he was interested in developing a fan with advanced and customizable ventilation capabilities.

Many patients with respiratory failure require mechanical ventilation, including intubation and sedation, Rose said rose. The problem is that these normal fans used in patient care are too invasive.

The robot fan does not require intubation – an invasive tube is inserted into the airway – but it non-invasively improves normal breathing function by providing high oxygen levels or extra pressure to support breathing. Overpressure in the exhaled air is another characteristic of the ventilator that can regulate the specific pressure of the air pumped into the affected lungs. Adjustable ventilation modes are used for different patients to adapt to different needs.

The goal is to use sensors and actuators to achieve modern ventilation modes, Rose said. The parts are easy to produce and sell on the market.

Keith Cook, professor of biomedical engineering at CMU, worked with CMU engineers on the development of cost-effective ventilation. He worked with Howie Chocet, a computer science professor and CMU project leader, who rejected the request for comment.

When I first approached Howie Chocet about this, my first thought was to ask his team not to work on the fan itself, but to work on the research and monitoring, Cook said. This will make these inexpensive FDA-approved fans more efficient.

Choset and his team have integrated an automatic closed-loop system, where the output signal is fed back into the system as an input signal, and a modular design with easily replaceable parts. Many fan components, including the circuit board, are manufactured automatically. But Lou Lee, a scientist with the CMU project, said the team will have to rely on human production for short-term needs.

For many components, such as the circuit board, we will automate the production process, says Lee. But for the final production we need the help of other people.

The Food and Drug Administration has already authorized the production of several low-cost fans by various companies, including the collaboration between Xerox and Vortran Medical. These disposable fans, which cost about $120 each, are not intended to replace traditional hospital fans.

Even if the needs in Pittsburgh don’t become significant, they could be significant elsewhere, Cook said. If we can provide a cheap but safe fan, some of these less well-equipped facilities can be purchased worldwide.

Rose agreed that the next steps in the development of this technology after final production would be to disseminate it worldwide.

There are many countries in the world that lack healthcare resources, Rose said. There may be hundreds of thousands of people in the world who need mechanical ventilation at the same time. It may be easier for them to supply a robot fan than a conventional one.

Kagya Amoako, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of New Haven, was the first to publish Cook’s research on artificial lung devices. Amoako comes from Ghana, a developing country with a population of about 31 million people, which currently suffers from a serious shortage of nationals.

Ghana has 67 ventilators to treat critically ill patients during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, Amoako said. It is therefore important, not only for the country, but also for neighbouring countries and countries with similar medical characteristics, that we study and develop strategies that take into account existing and emerging ideas and translate them into affordable and effective respiratory treatments.

It is very important for the government to work with academic researchers, clinicians and industry groups to help supply fans in the short term and for the long-term future of medicine, Mr Cook said.

People can work on prototypes, but they put money in their pockets to work on these things, Cook said. At some point, someone has to take a step forward and provide the necessary resources for further development.