I've been covering the engineering and maker communities for over a decade now, and it never ceases to amaze me when these communities come together to solve complex issues. Take for example the E-Nable Project. Engineers, Makers, and Citizen Scientists teamed up to create open-source, 3D printable prosthetics for children that anyone with a 3D printer and basic tools could create. Likewise, a new group on Facebook has been created to bring those same groups together to collaborate on designing open-source medical supplies in response to the global shortages we are experiencing at the moment do to the COVID19 pandemic. The Facebook group, Open Source COVID19 Medical Supplies, was created by Gui Cavalcanti, one of the co-founders of MegaBots, and was originally created to design an opensource ventilator, but has since shifted focus to designing all types of open-source medical supplies.

 

“I started this group to quickly develop an open-source ventilator, as it seemed obvious to me that global supplies would run out. After speaking to medical professionals all over the globe, it became even more obvious that we will quickly run out of most COVID19-related medical supplies, and ventilators are only a small part of the problem,” Cavalcanti said in a post welcoming new members to the group. “I have been introduced to a number of groups who are already working on open-source efforts to develop ventilators and other projects. We want to help them succeed rather than to duplicate their efforts.”

 

 

The group has grown to over 5,000 members (as of this writing) from all over the world and has already generated hundreds of discussions and collaborations between its members on topics ranging from 3D printable face mask to cheap ventilator designs that could be created from off-the-shelf and 3D printed parts. One such discussion centered around utilizing common development boards, stepper motors, and linear actuators to create a makeshift ventilator from a common CPR Ambu bag. In another thread, members brainstormed ideas for an app that could crowdsource infection data during outbreaks, which could allow health and emergency officials to better understand how the outbreak is spreading.

 

“I am an emergency medicine resident. It's great to see so many interested people who want to help! One of the big topics on here is ventilator design. This is because ventilators are anticipated to be one of the big limiting factors in how many patients we can take care of. Vents are complicated, and I see some misconceptions about what they need to do, so I've tried to create some specifications for what I think is a relatively simple design that will do most of what modern high-end vents can do. I'd really like feedback from medical professionals to help make these specifications better so that we can start building a blueprint for all the enthusiastic makers out there to work towards! I'll continue refining this document based on your feedback. Comments are open on the document, but I ask that only clinicians or respiratory therapists comment on the document, and anyone else is welcome to comment on this post.” One post read.

 

The Facebook Group is private and requires applicants to answer a few questions about your qualifications, but I think these questions are more of a spam bot filter than anything else. I was invited to the group around 1 pm on Sunday and was accepted as a member by 1:10 pm. I spent a few hours browsing the discussions, adding some comments to the various posts, and chatting with a couple of members about 3D Printing a prototype face mask to verify the .STL file prints fine on my Prusa i3 MK2s 3D printer. Verifying designs like this on a per 3D printer basis allow other 3D printer owners to chose designs that work best on their printers, allowing rapid manufacturing at a micro-scale.

 

I can not even begin to describe the pride I feel to be part of these communities. The ability to come together and focus on a specific goal for the greater good of all of humanity is not only heartwarming but confidence-inspiring. I’m not sure what innovations might come as a result of this group effort, but I know it will be innovative at the least, and revolutionary at best, but more importantly, we will have risen up together as a community to develop better systems to deal with pandemics of the future.

 

If you would like to join the effort, you can apply to be a member of the group on Facebook at the following link. https://www.facebook.com/groups/670932227050506