Home News OpenLung, an open-source Ventilator to combat COVID-19

OpenLung, an open-source Ventilator to combat COVID-19

by Divya Kiran Kumar
Published: Updated:
OpenLung project

The world has come to a standstill in the past few months. Every country is grappling with a crisis the likes of which they haven’t encountered since the last world war.

Scientists have for years been warning us of the high likelihood of a never-before-seen virus swiftly blowing up into a pandemic. Most world leaders disregarded it as one-in-a-billion black swan event, but here we are today facing beyond-our-wildest-dreams consequences of their lack of imagination.

In these demoralizing times, a group of volunteers is presenting their design for an open-source ventilator that can be manufactured in a short period using economical parts. Let us appreciate their contribution and spread the word about their low-cost alternative to expensive ventilators.

Coronavirus:  Once-in-Century Pandemic tormenting our World

COVID-19, a new respiratory disease, also commonly called the Corona Virus, has wreaked havoc across our planet. It has spread to every single continent on the planet, and as of today, there are around 2 million officially confirmed cases around the world and close to 125,000 deaths.

Why do we need Ventilators to fight COVID-19?

Corona Virus does not affect everyone who has contracted the disease in the same way. For most people, the symptoms are very mild, usually a minor cough and fever, and they quickly recover in a few weeks.

But those who are severely affected by the virus develop pneumonia and have difficulty breathing. The virus attacks the lungs and causes inflammation, thereby causing the lungs to fight the infection by filling up with mucus and fluid.

In the most critical cases where patients develop severe pneumonia or Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), hospitals need ventilators to keep them alive. A ventilator is a ‘breathing’ machine that sends oxygen to the patient’s lungs, which are drowning in fluids. Without a ventilator, a severely affected patient has no chance of surviving.

What do Ventilators do?

Lungs affected by COVID-19, in acute cases, are unable to inhale and exhale air normally. A Ventilator is designed primarily for this purpose of supplying oxygen to your lungs. It does this by mechanically pumping oxygen into your lungs through a tube that runs through your mouth and down your windpipe.

A ventilator can be programmed to ‘breathe’ in and out for a severely affected patient, thereby supplying oxygen to this bloodstream. This buys some time for the patient to recover from the illness and for his lungs to heal from the damage caused by the virus slowly.

Ventilator Shortage owing to CoronaVirus

It is because of the life-saving role that Ventilators play in COVID-19 hospitalizations that hospitals around the world are scrambling to get hold of ventilators to save as many people as they can.

The world has never seen a pandemic of these proportions since the 1918 Spanish flu. Our hospitals never needed to treat so many patients with respiratory sickness. Their supply of not only ventilators but also other equipment has fallen painfully short of the exponentially growing cases of CoronaVirus.

Desperate times call for extreme measures. The ventilator shortage has galvanized auto giants such as Ford, GM, and Tesla to convert their factories into ventilator manufacturing units. It has forced doctors into repurposing sleep apnea treating units to be used as ventilators. The extreme shortage has now inspired innovators all around the world to come up with DIY plans using off-the-shelf or 3D printed components.

OpenLung, an open-source Ventilator design

A group of more than 300 volunteers formed a company called OSV (Open Source Ventilator) with the sole aim of designing an open-source, low resource, quickly deployable ventilator using a bag valve mask (BVM or Ambu-bag) as a core component.

Even though their prototype design has been submitted to Ireland’s Health Services (HSE) for validation, it has not yet been approved for human usage by any regulatory authority. Nevertheless, their designs are a starting point to manufacture a cheap, fully functional ventilator that can be used in countries with less financial resources.

Low Resource Bag Valve Mask (BVM) Ventilator

OpenLung, open-source ventilator

Based on earlier devices by an MIT research group and a Rice University mechanical engineering student group, the OpenLung project is trying to combine and utilize their expertise to come up with a better design that can be mass-produced using certified components.

OSV has dozens of engineers, designers, and medical practitioners working day and night. Their goal is to collaborate on sustainable design for a Bag Valve Mask (BVM) that effectively uses 3D printing as well as traditionally manufactured components made from PLA plastic, which is derived from renewables such as sugar cane or corn starch.

They have separate teams working on

  • Mechanical Concepts
  • Control Electronics
  • Sensor Layout and Specifications
  • Housing Concepts
  • Humidifier Concepts
  • BVM Filtration
  • Regulatory
  • Testing


This is the time to shore up all we can to go to war against COVID-19. Volunteer organizations like OSV are doing their bit by giving away open-source designs for life-saving ventilators. We, at FOSSLinux, being the ardent advocates of FOSS that we are, truly appreciate their contribution to the open-source community.

It’s a good thing that OSV has a separate team that is working on getting their designs approved by regulators. Now, all it takes is a little more time and effort to get the plans approved and brought to life.

If you are an engineer or a doctor and like to contribute to this project, you can visit this Github page and use the participation request form. Or you could simply share this news with your friends and colleagues, who then share it with more people, eventually getting the attention of more engineers and designers.

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