Wiraphon: In an 8,000 sq ft (743 sq m) facility in the western Indian city of Pune, a bunch of young engineers are racing against time to develop a low-cost ventilator that could save thousands of lives if the coronavirus pandemic overwhelms the country's hospital

In an 8,000 sq ft (743 sq m) facility in the western Indian city of Pune, a bunch of young engineers are racing against time to develop a low-cost ventilator that could save thousands of lives if the coronavirus pandemic overwhelms the country's hospital


31 Mar 2020 at 10:24pm
In an 8,000 sq ft (743 sq m) facility in the western Indian city of Pune, a bunch of young engineers are racing against time to develop
a low-cost ventilator that could save thousands of lives if the coronavirus pandemic overwhelms the country's hospitals
These engineers - from some of India's top engineering schools - belong to a barely two-year-old start-up which makes water-less robots
that clean solar plants Last year, Nocca Robotics had a modest turnover of 2.7 million rupees ($36,000; £29,000). The average age of the
mechanical, electronic and aerospace engineers who work for the firm is 26

India, by most estimates, only has 48,000 ventilators. Nobody quite knows how many of these breathing assistance machines are working
But it is a fair assumption that all those available are being used in intensive care units on existing patients with other diseases
What are ventilators and why are they important Why do you lock down 1.3bn people? India's pandemic lockdown turns into a human tragedy
About one in six people with Covid-19 gets seriously ill, which can include breathing difficulties. The country faces seeing its hospitals

hobbled as others around the world have been, with doctors forced to choose who they try to save At least two Indian companies make
ventilators at present, mostly from imported components. They cost around 150,000 ($1,987; £1,612) rupees each. One of them, AgVa Healthcare
plans to make 20,000 in a month's time. India has also ordered 10,000 from China, but that will meet just a fraction of the potential demand
The invasive ventilator being developed by the engineers at Nocca Robotics will cost 50,000 rupees ($662). Within five days of beginning work
a group of seven engineers at the start-up have three prototypes of a portable machine ready
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They are being tested on artificial lungs, a prosthetic device that provides oxygen and removes carbon dioxide from the blood. By 7 April
they plan to be ready with machines that can be tested on patients after approvals It is most certainly doable," said Dr Deepak Padmanabhan,
a cardiologist at Bangalore's Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research, and a key advisor on this project. "The simulations
on artificial lungs have been done and seem to work well Inspiring story The race to develop this inexpensive, home-grown invasive breathing machine
is an inspiring story of swift coordination and speedy action involving public and private institutions, something not common in India
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The pandemic has brought us all together in ways I could never imagine," says Amitabha Bandyopadhyay, a professor of biological sciences
and bioengineering at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, and a key mover of the project The young engineers mined open source medical
supplies groups on the internet to find information on how to make the ventilators. After securing permissions, it took them exactly eight hours to
produce the first prototype. Of particular use, say doctors, were some designs by engineers at MIT. With imports stalled, the engineers picked up pressure sensors
a key component of the machine that helps supply oxygen to lungs at a pressure that doesn't cause injury - from those used in drones and available in the market.

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