UTD Lab Develops 3D-Printed Ventilator Part

Ben Batchelor (center), director of the UT Dallas Advanced Polymer Research Laboratory, trained students on how to fabricate and inspect PEEP valves. The students — UT Southwestern Medical Center medical student Ev Kakadiaris (left), UT Dallas biology senior Khao Nguyen (front) and mechanical engineering junior Danyal Syed (back) — used rigs on their tables to perform quality assurance tests. Photo courtesy of UT Dallas.

Researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) (Richardson, Texas, USA) have designed and 3D-printed a critical ventilator part, known as a positive end-expiratory pressure (PEEP) valve, that ensure patients’ lungs retain some air and do not collapse while exhaling. Because these parts are disposable, a new PEEP valve is needed for each patient.

The UTD research team is seeking emergency approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration so it can distribute PEEP valves to those hospitals that need them. In addition to 3D-printing these critical ventilator parts, they plan on manufacturing testing swabs and personal protective equipment (PPE) in a campus lab mobilized to address potential shortage supplies due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the university, the research team began developing the PEEP valves in March in a proactive effort to address concerns about current and future shortages of ventilators during rapidly changing circumstances. “We’re excited to be able to use 3D-printing technology to manufacture equipment that could save the lives of COVID-19 patients and protect the health care workers caring for them,” says Walter Voit, an associate professor of materials science and engineering and one of the faculty members leading the project. Voit is also founder and chief operating officer of Adaptive 3D Technologies, a UTD-affiliated company that supplied the company used in the inner component and the outer casing in some of the valves.

UTD mobilized its COVID-UT Dallas Response Lab (CURL) in the UTDesign Studio, which had been closed when, in response to the pandemic, the university opened it up to essential personnel. The UTD 3D-printing team is one of several university groups across the country operating through 3D Corps, an informal collaboration of experts whose goal is to increase the supply of ventilator parts and PPE.

“We’re grateful to The University of Texas System for authorizing us to open the UTDesign lab during the COVID-19 pandemic so we could rapidly mobilize an incredible team of faculty and student researchers to use their expertise to help fill critical shortages in lifesaving equipment at hospitals,” says Stephanie G. Adams, dean of the Eric Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science.

The CURL researchers worked closely with UT Southwestern Medical Center physicians to determine their most urgent medical needs. Although UT Southwestern has a steady supply of PEEP valves on hand, the 3D-printing project will help ensure that an adequate supply is available if needed, says Hongzhao Ji, assistant professor of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery at the hospital.

Along with the PEEP valves, researchers are working on such projects as nasopharyngeal swabs used to test and diagnose patients, a powdered air purifying respirator, and other PPE such as face shields, seals, and gaskets for head gear. According to the university, the team hopes to provide additional information about these projects in coming weeks.

Visit the UTD website for more information about the university’s 3D-printed ventilator PEEP valve project.

Source: University of Texas at Dallas, www.utdallas.edu.