Turning one ventilator into multiple engineered ventilation stations

The Irish manufacturer Combilift, best known for its range of space-saving forklifts and other handling solutions, has drawn on its expertise in engineering and software design to develop the Combi-Ventilate, a splitter device which turns one ventilator into multiple ventilation stations.

Designed to address the requirements of medical professionals in the current Covid-19 emergency the Combi-Ventilate was developed by a team of mechatronic and software engineers in the past 5 weeks with a unit currently undergoing laboratory tests with Ger Curley Professor of Anaesthesia & Critical Care at Royal College of Surgeon’s in Beaumont hospital.

Martin McVicar, CEO and co-founder Combilift said:
“Certain countries and cities are struggling to get enough ventilators and many governments and health authorities are encouraging manufacturers to come up with a solution, as did the HSE in Ireland. Instead of actually developing ventilators we analysed what is really required, as we do in our usual business models.”

The Combi-Ventilate uses standard pipes and fittings for easy assembly and its individual patient filters prevent cross contamination. Each patient has a dedicated screen which allows medical professionals to individually monitor their vital information. This includes live values, data on patient history and statistics and adjustable alarm settings. Features include non-return valves, HEPA filters, flow sensors and an automatic flow control valve. Any abnormalities that occur are detected and will only trigger that specific patient’s alarm.

The Combi-Ventilate has automatically adjustable flow control valves which allow the health service professional control the tidal volume to each patient electronically without having to make manual adjustments.

“We have made Combi-Ventilate under the same ethos and with the same objective as we do with all our the Combilift products – which is all about doing more with less,” said McVicar.

“We have undertaken this non-profit endeavour in order to meet and facilitate the demands of the global crisis for health services around the world, the lack or shortage of ventilators. The medical device sector is not our core business but making critical equipment which keeps people safe and alive has always been our focus and this latest project, driven by our desire to help during these difficult times, mirrors what our research and development has done for the last 20 years. If our product can save lives, if we can make a difference during these hard times then we are making the world a better place for everyone.”

“When we are developing equipment, we listen closely to our customers in order to perfect and improve the product. That approach in our collaboration with the HSE is what has really got us where we are today. This is very much designed as an attachment which can be added to any brand of ventilator. It costs a fraction of a standard ventilator and can be installed very easily into an ICU unit environment. This is a not-for-profit activity which we hope will open up more opportunities for Combilift in the medical device area in future.”

Commenting on the project Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, said:
“Combilift have had huge success all over the world because their number one priority is finding solutions. That’s why it should be no surprise to see them stepping up to the plate in our national and global effort to defeat COVID-19. Their hallmark as a company is innovation and adaptability, and this splitter device is testament to that. I would like to commend them on their wonderful achievement and wish them every success as they bring the product to market”.

Dr Michael Power, National Clinical Lead, Critical Care Programme, National Clinical Programmes, Clinical Design and Innovation, Office of the Chief Clinical Officer, HSE said:
“The Combi-Ventilate is a safe and reliable attachment for ventilators for use in an ICU setting in that unwanted scenario where you have one ventilator for multiple patients. It removes that horrible dilemma. The Combi-Ventilate is safe and reliable. It is an engineered solution which delivers the correct volume of air to each patient and actually delivers the required amounts of air to each patient safely and reliably. The Combi-Ventilate project is an example of a collaboration between the engineering and the manufacturing industry and the Health Service Executive (HSE). It is an agile project which is completed inside of 5 weeks”

Ronnie McDermott, National Medical Device Equipment Advisor, HSE said:
“The Combi-Ventilate in addition to the normal concept of splitting a ventilator has added in monitoring and controls for each patient so that provides the clinician with assurances in using the system. It will be very useful in the developing world countries who may not have the luxury to go out and purchase many ventilators. Splitting a ventilator is now a viable solution”.

Julie Sinnamon, CEO, Enterprise Ireland said:
“Irish companies are innovating in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and it is exciting to see Combilift, who have always been at the forefront of innovation in the forklift and handling sector, use its manufacturing expertise to develop the Combi-Ventilate, which will help address the urgent global demand for ventilators. I wish Combilift success with the development of this new product and we at Enterprise Ireland look forward to continuing to work with Combilift, and other Irish companies, as they continue to develop new and innovative solutions in response to the crisis”.

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