A fear of lack of resources gripped the nation during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in Malta, spurring a number of local initiatives to help supplement the anticipated need for medical and PPE equipment – from face masks to shields and so on.
One of those initiatives was the founding of a ventilator project involving a number of local companies – Toly Group, Trelleborg, Mattermake and Evolve.
Together they combined their unique set of skills and set out to build ventilators using open-source plans from an MIT project adapted to local resources available.
“After looking at the situation in Italy (where they had to choose between who to give a ventilator) we thought we can’t allow ourselves to put in this situation as a nation,” said Steve De Micoli, director of Mattermake.
In less than two weeks, the team managed to 3D print, assemble and program a ventilator system inline with medical requirements to be used at Mater Dei Hospital…
While it did not pass long term tests, they’re currently refining its blueprint so as to be able to develop a local ventilator system in a matter of days should the COVID-19 situation worsen or should there be an immediate need for it in the future.
“What’s really cool about this is how so many people stepped up to help to get a workable prototype,” said James Kingswell, Innovation Manager at Toly Group.
“From my end and from others, there was a lot of sleepless, busy nights working on designs, parts, electronics and coding.”
Should the need arise, a plan has been drafted to manufacture these units at Toly’s new Malta factory with the support of operators from Trelleborg and Metalform, along with testing provided by the Hospital and Evolve Ltd.
“As a project, we have the capacity to make 2,000 ventilators. If this had to be scaled up, it could be done. It’s quite different from other open-source ventilation projects,” continued Steve.
“The scope is to have this at a point where it’s been tested and clinicians are happy to use it where it comes to a point where something happens and this is needed, it’s available.”
Hopefully, the situation does not reach a point where we do have to resort to locally manufactured ventilation systems but knowing that the availability is there if needed puts the nation’s mind at rest.