Just four weeks to a concept for an emergency ventilator
The lockdown in spring 2020 meant that the majority of Festo employees had to join the ranks of those working from home. Yet within the space of just four weeks they managed to develop a suitable solution for an emergency ventilator for a COVID-19 treatment, thanks to an agile development process and standard components that were quickly delivered.
For 16 years, a concept by a group of scientists for an emergency ventilator – based on Festo automation components – lay in the archives of the British government. Back then it was developed in response to the pandemic of 2002/03 triggered by the SARS coronavirus. Festo learned about it in March 2020 when it received an enquiry from a customer in the UK.
In spring 2020 – at the height of the coronavirus pandemic – this enquiry provided the impetus to dust off the plans and develop an emergency ventilator using modern automation components from Festo, partially based on innovative piezo technology. “This tailored solution for a COVID-19 treatment provided the answer to the impending supply shortages for ventilators”, explains Dr Frank Jacob, Head of Business Unit LifeTech at Festo.
Expertise in automation and competency in oxygen
“As the world’s leading supplier of automation technology, Festo has decades of experience in designing ready-to-install subsystems. The Business Unit LifeTech supports equipment and system manufacturers in the development of solutions for the precise regulation of oxygen, for example”, explains Jacob.
Proportional valves with piezo technology play an important role. They enabled the Festo employees to come up with a well thought-out concept for an emergency ventilator in just four weeks. “What makes the system special is that it uses mostly Festo standard components, which are available in large quantities at short notice”, adds Jacob.
Agile, continuous and interdisciplinary teamwork
To further speed up the development, Festo consistently relied on an agile and interdisciplinary approach. The partners in this case were not equipment and system manufacturers, but rather lung specialists from hospitals throughout Southern Germany. In a continuous development process encompassing several stages, the doctors provided valuable feedback so that the concept could be optimally adapted to the specifics of a COVID-19 treatment.
The project started with ten Festo employees from the LifeTech and Advance Development business units. As the requirements increased, colleagues from the Pneumatic Drives, Electric Drives and Process Automation divisions came on board. The result was an interdisciplinary team of almost 100 creative minds. The collaboration was mostly virtual, since almost all employees were working from home during this period due to the coronavirus lockdown.
Precise and reliable pressure regulation with piezo technology
A big challenge for the automated ventilator was precisely controlling the proportions of the various gases for the breathing air. It was also necessary to bear in mind that a slight excess pressure had to be maintained on exhalation to prevent the lungs collapsing or water collecting in the lungs.
“Festo proportional valves based on piezo technology proved the ideal solution for this. They enable fast adjustment of the pressure and very precise pressure regulation”, explains Jacob. “The piezo valves are also especially compact, lightweight, quiet and energy efficient”, he continues.
Easily integrated components – optimised for oxygen
The emergency ventilator from Festo shows how simple it is to combine easily integrated components with clear interfaces into suitable systems. The Business Unit LifeTech benefits from Festo’s involvement in a wide variety of industries as an automation specialist: “For example, the business unit can draw on expertise from the food and electronics industries, which have the highest standards for cleanliness and hygiene”, says Jacob.
Spurred on by this successful concept and in view of the increasing demand as well as the number of potential applications, Festo is extending its portfolio of products which are suitable for use with oxygen. These currently include the 2/2-way proportional valve VEAE and the mass flow controller VEMD with integrated control electronics.
费斯托 (Festo)是一家全球性的独立的家族企业，总部位于德国埃斯林根。自成立以来，Festo在工业自动化技术和技术教育方面制定标准，从而为环境、经济和社会的可持续发展做出贡献。公司为超过35个行业的30万家工厂和过程自动化客户提供气动和电驱动自动化技术解决方案，其中生命科学和实验室自动化业务受到越来越多的关注。Festo产品和服务遍布176个国家。2022年，费斯托在全球61个国家的250多个分支机构拥有约20800名员工，实现销售额38.1亿欧元。每年约7%的销售额用于研发。在这家学习型企业，1.5%的销售额用于基础和进一步培训。Festo 教学培训 (Didactic SE) 是全球领先的技术教育和培训供应商，为全球客户提供工业环境中全面的数字化和常规学习解决方案。