As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to strain global hospital resources, the spectre of a second wave hangs over our health system. Despite our success flattening the curve in Australia, there is still a growing global concern that an abundance of ventilators is not dramatically changing the mortality rate. So in March, Cobalt led a consortium with a rapid response to aid hospital demands for alternative and innovative medical equipment that could simultaneously improve patient recovery and keep medical staff safe. The lack of available life-saving ventilators and respirators at the time was the immediate concern – driving the need for a quick turnaround and a non-mechanical solution.
Cobalt and GoProto intensively applied their resources to finding a solution for the layers of patients waiting in hospital beds for ventilators. The accelerated development process included collaboration with senior ICU doctors to create specialised 3D printed adapter kits that could convert existing and approved CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) masks and N99 filters into positive lung pressure devices. The converted CPAP masks can be used by hospital teams to treat sub-acute COVID-19 patients prior to them needing ICU ventilator treatment. This solution frees up ICU beds, limited ventilators and requires less medical staff to monitor them.
The converted CPAP masks with the 3D printed adapters’ features an oxygen feed line, so the patient receives pressurised oxygen-enriched air to their lungs whilst their exhaled air (that may contain aerosolized virus) is filtered out to protect medical staff. This type of system when applied to a sub-acute patient helps prevent the collapse of alveoli (lung air sacs needed for the intake of oxygen into the body) and aids recovery, improving the chances of avoiding incubation.
The 3D printed adapter kits are manufactured from biocompatible PA12 on HP Multi Jet Fusion printers which enables the components to be made at low cost and delivered quickly for immediate use in hospitals. The material can be washed and sterilised.
Long-term applications for these kits can be for use as patient transfer masks or by aged care facilities here in Australia. Our data will be made available to other countries whose hospitals are still under enormous strain or face a second wave and may need alternative recovery and treatment plans.
Cobalt was proud to have the opportunity to lead this humanitarian initiative, inspired by all the other designers, engineers and medics working under the pressure of rising patient deaths in Italy & Belgium. The bravery and innovative thinkers of the doctors & ICU teams at the COVID Hub at Sunshine Hospital and all hospital staff across the Australia continues to energise our passion to help.
Particular thanks to the proactive support of AMTIL and the Advance Manufacturing Hub for the assistance on the project. Their urgency and commitment to make available a Build it Better voucher fueled a concentrated effort. We are also grateful for the liaison and knowledge sharing of Dr Carl Le from Supercars headquarters and Barry Ryan from Erebus Medical who are also refining a number of medical products to help fill the void of PPE to protect medical staff from the virus.