Orchard’s Tech Director Helped Develop 3-D Printed Split Ventilator Systems With Doctors at IU Health

Dr. Tobin Greensweig MD at Indiana University Health is working to prepare for what he believes will be an inevitable need. “As COVID19 cases pile up, including at the Indiana University hospitals, our team has been working incredibly hard to get a safe and effective split ventilator system ready to ventilate multiple patients with a single ventilator,” Greensweig published in his blog on Monday, March 30.

Dr. Greensweig’s team mentioned above is called the “Split Vent” project and it consists of professionals in IT, engineering and the medical field. Their mission is to develop 3-D printable variable flow restrictor valves and splitters that connect directly in line with ventilator tubing. These 3-D parts are used with a custom monitoring system powered by a Raspberry Pi mini-computer with flow and pressure sensors that give each patient their own “vent screen” that displays pressure, flow, and volume waveforms. The main goal of the system is to safely connect multiple patients to a ventilator and have enough control to provide safe and effective ventilation. The team feels that this approach will provide more effective control, and hopefully better outcomes for patients than what might be accomplished using the low-cost ventilators being developed by many groups around the country.

A few weeks ago, Orchard’s tech director Nate Surls was asked to bring his 3-D printing skills from the #OrchardMakerspace to the “Split Vent” team at IU Health. He jumped at the opportunity. “I want to do whatever I can to help people during this time,” Nate said.

Nate (bottom right) attends regular "Split Vent" team meetings with Dr. Greensweig (top right) on ZOOM. - Joe Koberg (top left), Dan Lash (bottom left)

Remote learning is still going strong at Orchard, so the IT department is still needed on a daily basis, meaning Nate has spent lots of late nights prototyping valve designs for the “Split Vent” team. “Hopefully it’s not necessary here in Indy,” Nate said, “but the numbers show it’s worth me spending my free time in order to be proactive and potentially help hospitals in Indy, and maybe all over the world.”

Here's a glimpse of the 3-D printing and design process that started in Nate's house with parts and pieces from the new Orchard Makerspace.

Everything the “Split Vent” team does is open source, licensed under Creative Commons 4.0. They encourage others to download, hack, or re-contribute any designs they’ve created. At a time when we aren’t able to easily go out and buy makeshift items, it puts 3-D printers in the driver’s seat to make a positive impact on public health.

Speaking of a positive impact, the “Split Vent” team received some great news a few days ago. After many successful tests in respiratory therapy labs and the IU Health simulation center, IU Health authorized purchasing the necessary parts and the team is building the procedures/protocols to be able to use the split vent system if needed.

Here's the most recent update from Dr. Greensweig:

This entire process has left Nate with a new outlook on healthcare providers. “It’s hard not to get emotional about this given all the information I've learned this past week and realizing how much this project could potentially benefit many people,” Nate said. “But I know it’s nothing compared to the daily work from healthcare providers on the front line, so anything I can do to make their jobs easier right now, I’m in.”

Orchard’s commitment to service and civic responsibility is just as true for faculty & staff members as it is for our students. Thanks for contributing to the community, Nate!

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