The Army Wants Your Ventilator Ideas

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A new contest seeks new designs to meet a growing need.

The U.S. Army has opened a design competition for ventilators intended for “short-term, rugged field operation…that will support field hospitals,” service officials announced Thursday.

The winners, as determined by judges with the Army’s xTech Covid-19 program, will get $100,000 to develop a prototype. “Select technologies may receive follow-on contracts for additional production and deployment,” the announcement says. Interested participants can enter via the project website. There will be a virtual pitch session on April 13.

The Army has deployed field hospitals to New York, Seattle, and elsewhere as the COVID-19 outbreak spread in the United States. However, the one in Seattle left after nine days having never seen a patient, according to a local NPR affiliate.

The ventilator shortage in the United States may not be as bad as it was in Italy,  according to some recent modeling of the pandemic from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. But the figures vary by state. Typical ventilators can cost upwards of $30,000. Since the start of the pandemic, designers and entrepreneurs have also answered the call for new designs. James Dyson of vacuum-cleaner fame has said that his company will make 10,000 ventilators available in the U.K. (But there is some concern they won’t be ready in time for peak need.) MIT has launched an open-source project called E-Vent  to design a rapidly-deployable ventilator that costs less than $100.