How 3D printers can help India to save oxygen

Uttar Pradesh, Índia Foto: SANJAY KANOJIA / AFP/20-04-2021

India is under an enormous crisis because of shortage of oxygen for treatment of COVID patients. Patients across the country are rushing to hospitals with no beds and many are under oxygen therapy at home. Oxygen shortage is the single biggest problem India faces at this very moment. 

Manu Prakash, a professor of bioengineering at Stanford University, has developed a Project basted on 3D printed engineering that allow to save up to 50% of oxygen in a tank . This is possible because during oxygen therapy, when a patient exhales, oxygen is still being supplied and is thus wasted.

Prakash developed an open source and rapidly manufacturable passive oxygen conservation device for treatment of mild COVID-19 patients who are on high-flow nasal cannula to be used at places facing shortage of oxygen like in India. He thought about a solution to deliver a bolus of oxygen only when a patient inhales, following the natural flow of respiration. How did he do it? By using a 3D printed device that preserves the oxygen during the exhalation cycle.

The project presentation emphasizes it is a temporary and ‘non-approved ‘ solution only for emergencial use. Moreover, the device is envisioned to be used in settings where patients with mild conditions are being treated; and not used for severe covid patients.

Therefore, they recommend the complete industrial process for better outcomes., once these valves were originally designed for use in ICU ventilators. Using a metal body will ensure reliability over large number of cycles. However, given the emergencial application here, it may indeed be worthwhile to test 3D printed components.

The project is open sourced and can be assessed here.