As the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to a pause in late March, the team at Fuseproject—led by founder Yves Béhar, known for taking on projects that help the greater good—sprang into action to assist the medical community. "One of the qualities of designers is we tend to be reactive and tend to like action; we prefer action over discussion, so the team quickly realized a number of different needs," he said, noting that the demand for more ventilators quickly became an evident, and urgent, one.
Around the same time, healthcare workers from Massachusetts General Hospital launched the CoVent-19 Challenge with startup GrabCAD, an innovator in 3D printing, encouraging the design of a rapidly deployable mechanical ventilator. The industrial design team at Fuseproject stepped up to the challenge, first by seeking out collaborators with engineering expertise, CIONIC and two volunteer engineers from Accenture. "We started out knowing that we wanted to find some great partners to collaborate with," said Daniel Zarem, a senior industrial designer at Fuseproject. "Then it took us about two and a half weeks to engineer and design the ventilator." Stressing the incredibly quick development, Béhar added that a few weeks to create such a device is indeed a "very short amount of time."
The team's design, called InVent Pneumatic Ventilator, can be quickly produced using 3D printing, is easy to assemble, and can be attached to a hospital's existing IV poles. "We wanted the ventilator to be assembled in under four hours using material readily available," said Béhar. "To be able to place the ventilator on a pole means it can move with the patient throughout the hospital easily... this became a key element." The ventilator's ability to attach to the IV pole also helps organize its accessories and cables, creating a simple yet effective breathing device.
Given the innovative design, the team's project moved forward in the 12-week CoVent-19 Challenge, which began April 1. InVent Pneumatic Ventilator is now one of seven final projects—created by the only design firm in the mix—chosen from more than 200 entries spanning 42 countries, which means Fuseproject, Accenture, and CIONIC have access to additional resources to complete their ventilator and create a functional prototype. The Fuseproject team aims to have a fully developed, functioning, and tested prototype by late June. "There's an impulse from designers to want to jump at a problem and be part of the solution," adds Béhar, who noted that his team took the initiative to set this project in motion.
The winning design will be chosen by a team of expert medical and technical panelists and announced in June. Ultimately, CoVent plans to help the winning team secure FDA approval and bring the device to market.
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