Tesla has released a video showing how its engineering team is working to create a ventilator from car parts. The company has pledged to create ventilators to aid in the treatment of patients with coronavirus, officially called COVID-19.
“We’re trying to make some ventilators out of some car parts,” the engineers explain, “so that we can help out with the medical issue without taking away from the supply.”
The prototype design the team has created works by taking a hospital-grade air supply and sending it into a mixing chamber, which is a reused car part. In the mixing chamber, air is combined with oxygen before being sent through a wall body, which creates pressure and volume waveforms in the air. The air comes out and passes through a series of sensors like a flow rate sensor and a pressure sensor, before being sent through a filter and into the patient’s lungs.
When the patients exhales, the carbon dioxide-rich air they breathe out is carrying through a second set of pipes with more sensors before reaching a valve which maintains positive air pressure in the lungs to help the patient breathe more easily.
The team has worked the design into a package version which uses the Model 3 infotainment system to display patient information on a touch screen, aided with by the use of Model 3 vehicle controllers. The engineers say that there is still a lot of work to be done on the design before the ventilators are ready for production and distribution, but that they are making progress.
Tesla’s medical donations have been the source of some controversy. The company announced they would be manufacturing ventilators if required last month, to address the shortage of them in the U.S., and it reopened a gigafactory in New York which had been shut down in order to produce the ventilators. By the start of this month, hospitals in the New York area were already receiving donations from the company including masks and donated devices, with promises of more ventilators to be shipped soon.
However, critics have questioned how useful the donated devices will be, as they appear to be a type of device called a Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP) machine, similar to a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine. These devices are not designed to deliver oxygen into patients’ lungs, however, it may be possible to convert them into ventilators.