As the current pandemic creates an urgent need for more ventilators, a company in Kosovo says it has come up with a low-cost respirator made largely with 3D printable parts to assist in the fight against the coronavirus.


Formon working in manufacturing VentCore. Photo: Courtesy of Formon

by Xhorxhina Bami

Responding to the worldwide need for more ventilators to assist the fight against COVID-19, a Kosovo-based company has come up with a low-cost, open-source ventilator prototype that uses 3D printing technology.

Arianit Zabergja, co-founder of Formon, told BIRN that over the last 10 days the company had redirected all its resources towards developing the ventilator, using 3D printers from its own stock. Called VentCore, more than half of its parts are 3D printable parts.

A 3D printer essentially works by extruding molten plastic through a nozzle that it moves around under computer control. It prints one layer, waits for it to dry, then prints the next layer on top.

As the company points out, the Ventcore “is not meant to replace proper medical devices, it is an emergency device when all other options are depleted. It is to be used only under medical doctors supervision.”

Formon specializes in designing and manufacturing 3D printers. Rron Cena, another co-founder, told BIRN that the VentCore includes a mechanical system of BVM bags – the medicinal bags doctors use to operate manual breathing for a patient – printed by the company’s 3D printers. The system is automated and controlled by an electronic plate, also produced by Formon.

“VentCore automates the use of these bags in cases of COVID-19 infected patients, depending on whether it is appropriate for them; this is decided by the doctor,” Cena said.

While Formon has not yet calculated the cost of a VentCore, “as the cost will be calculated based on the amount to be produced”, Cena said it certainly would be a fraction of the cost of a standard hospital ventilator, which usually costs tens of thousands of euros.

Formon has decided to share all the production files, electronic schematics and electronic boards on its website, allowing anyone to access to the equipment’s design and electronic system. Using these files, 3D printing companies around the world can manufacture the respirator and test it using their own resources.

“Meanwhile, we are planning to start production,” Cena said, adding that they had started talks with various institutions for the possible distribution of the respirator in Kosovo.

One of the main attributes of COVID-19 is that the virus attacks the lungs, in some cases causing severe problems with breathing – hence the need for, and shortage of, ventilators.

This need is less urgent in Eastern Europe, which has seen far fewer cases of COVID-19, than countries like Spain, Italy, France, Germany and the UK. Kosovo currently has 184 cases of COVID-19 infection, five of whom have since died due to complications.

The main hospital in Kosovo, the University Clinical Centre, told BIRN that Kosovo currently has 80 respirators, 58 located in clinics, 22 in the seven general hospitals and the rest held in reserve.

More information about VentCore can be found here: https://www.ventcore.health/

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