The story starts on the evening of Wednesday 18th March 2020, when the call was launched via the Worshipful Company of Engineers [WCE] for a response to the looming hospital ventilator crisis in the United Kingdom highlighted by Liveryman Professor Nachiappan Chockalingam, of Staffordshire University to the global call from Frontier Technologies Hub for a ventilator technology that could be rapidly manufactured in response to the COVID19 pandemic.
Through an online Design Sprint facilitated by UCL's GDI Hub and Institute of Healthcare Engineering, the different members of the Field Ventilator team were bought together, including WCE Liveryman Brian M Back who was to ultimately become the Engineering lead and one of the co-founders of what has since been called the Field Ventilator Project.
In the very limited time available (3-days), and after a lot of long hours, the team was able to establish a specification and to fabricate a proof of concept that illustrated that a rudimentary ventilator could be made by automating an industry standard Ambu bag, using a scavenged rear wiper motor and a machined box assembly. A short YouTube video link can be found on the Field Ventilator main page.
Understandably, lacking clinical trials and a track record, the design was not selected by the UK Government. However, not to be dissuaded, the team was re-formed, with the blessing of UCL and the WCE, headed by WCE Court Assistant Brian M Back and Professor Nachiappan Chockalingam with the determination that a modified and verified version of the concept model should be developed. The focus of this development would be to engineer a simple, robust, low cost design that could help tackle the impending crisis around the developing world. Further, the design would not just assist SARS-Cov-2 (Covid-19) victims but would also help treat other conditions such as Asthma, Emphysema, Pneumonia and similar respiratory diseases plus the many innocent casualties of war and violence, plus women during childbirth in the Remote & Resource Stressed Parts of the World.
On the 26th of March 2020, just one week after the initial call, the Field Ventilator Project was born with the continuing support of the WCE & UCL which have provided accelerated access to experts with engineering, legal and regulatory expertise, as well as feedback from clinicians in a range of different resource settings in UK, France, Nigeria and India,
In April, Barry Brooks BSc(Eng) CEng FIET FIMarEST, the Immediate Past Master of the Worshipful Company of Engineers, joined the team as a volunteer. Through his connections, the proof of concept was put through its paces at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), the UK’s National Metrology Institute. The initial measurements confirmed that the concept was viable and worth developing further.
Consequently, Barry formed a larger team via his Engineering Livery contacts to help take the design forward from the POC, through the complete design cycle and into service. This was to the start of a massive pro bono exercise by many people who support the altruistic objective.
First to step forward was a large international engineering consultancy, with engineers in India, UK, France, Germany, Czech Republic and USA, They agreed to refine the original proof-of-concept design, with Mr Back acting as a consultant, whilst maintaining its spirit of a low cost, rapidly-manufacturable system, based on locally available components in low-resource countries.
Another Liveryman, David Knight, a partner in European law firm Fieldfisher, also stepped forward to offer advice on governance of the not-for-profit Field Ventilator Limited and to assist with legal documents concerned with the multi-stakeholder involvement in the project, as part of the firm's pro-bono covid-19 legal support initiative.
In May, one of Professor Nachiappan Chockalingam’s many global clinical contacts, a Nigerian hospital group agreed to build and test the Field Ventilator, once the design is complete, and to obtain regulatory approvals in the country.
June 2020 saw the appointment of Mr Barry Brooks and Professor Nachiappan Chockalingam to the board of Field Ventilator Limited.
In August, again thanks to another Engineer Liveryman, The Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC), which develops and proves innovative manufacturing processes and technologies in an agile, low risk environment, agreed to build several prototypes in collaboration with the Field Ventilator team who have provided the design. In October, the MTC started building the Mk2 prototype Field Ventilator, using their apprentices for their own development and to test the manufacturability of the design.
In September 2020, despite parts or our engineering project team operating under lock-down (in France and India), we are reaching the completion leg of the project, but with a far more sophisticated device - but still for a low cost - than we could ever have imagined at the outset. The device will be robust, remain simple, easily maintainable in the field, operate without mains power, and be cheaper than devices such as transport ventilators. Whilst keeping the design simple, it will include a set of alarms such as pressure, low battery and failure, and will also support advanced features such as patient triggering, a BPM rate of up to 30, and most importantly and uniquely to the Field Ventilator, something not seen on other Ambu Bag based ventilators - a separate air path for inhalation and exhalation. This dual path circuit was conceived to permit PEEP to be added, to ensure that stale air is exhausted from the system and to provide a point in the circuit where C02 levels (FI02) can be measured with reliability.
Also in September, under the Measure for Recovery Programme, https://www.npl.co.uk/measurement-for-recovery, NPL agreed to undertake testing of the prototype Field Ventilator using their ventilator validation capability to provide assurance of the performance against regulatory standards.
Founder of Radio Data Networks Limited, and Zero Pollution Network, Chairman of Environmental Innovations and Engineering Futures Limited , part-time consultant, Brian is by Profession a Chartered Engineer, Eur Eng, Fellow of the IET, Freeman of the City of London, Member of the Worshipful Company of Engineers, Corporate & Non-Ex Director, CTO. The author of Technical & Environmental articles, a trained Power Engineer, Electronics, Design & Production Engineer with a bias towards Environmental Protection, Radio & Satellite Telemetry, Rail Safety (build NW Rails rail temperature safety system 2002-2006), Healthcare Facilities Monitoring, Smart Networks (designed the Paris Smart Water Metering Network 2001-2007) and since 2010 has been the pioneer infection control in hospitals through the early detection of blockages in drains and sewers in the healthcare and utility sectors. He also plays an active role on national and international trade bodies and standards committees.
Director of Centre for Biomechanics and Rehabilitation Technologies at Staffordshire University. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine. He has over 600 research outputs, including over 200 full research manuscripts and serves in the editorial panel for several scientific journals. His recent project in collaboration with the World Health Organisation and the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics supported the development of WHO Standards for Prosthetics and Orthotics Service Provision. He is involved in charitable and non-profit organisations to help the wider global community on healthy ageing and assistive technology to aid mobility. Member of the Worshipful Company of Engineers,
Barry Brooks read Electrical Engineering at Imperial College and served in the Royal Navy as an electrical and nuclear propulsion engineer in submarines, in R&D, procurement and logistic projects, and in MOD HQ. He is now a director of his own programme management and assurance consultancy Company, Wychcote Ltd, and one of Field Ventilator Ltd’s three Directors
His voluntary roles include President of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET, 2013-14), Trustee of Institute of Marine Engineering Science and Technology (IMarEST, 2017-), Trustee of the Engineers Trust (2018-), and is Immediate Past-Master of the Worshipful Company of Engineers, a London Livery Company. It was though the Engineers Livery Company that he became involved in the Field Ventilator and encouraged other Liverymen to persuade their companies or specialist organisations to join this altruistic project.
Tim is currently a Consultant Anaesthetist and Intensive Care Physician at the University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust. He is interested in the management of 'blast lung' and to this end is undertaking a project developing a blast lung physiological model, which once validated will facilitate computerised trials of various ventilatory or pharmacological interventions. He is currently working with the team in CBRT to understand Occipital Ulcers in Armed Forces.
Tom is a chartered professional engineer with over 35 years of international, commercial experience as a practising biomedical engineer, medical physicist and computer scientist with a focus on machine vision applications applied to the analysis of clinical imagery. Tom is a co-founder of Oxford Metrics plc (LSE: OMG). Tom is also a Visiting Professor within the Centre for Biomechanics and Rehabilitation Technologies, Staffordshire University, researching the application of vision science to the measurement of cosmetic defect and physical capability among children diagnosed with Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis.
Panos work focuses on musculoskeletal biomechanics and medical devices. He has qualifications in Applied Mathematical and Physical Sciences specialising in Mechanics of Materials and Optoelectronics. He has experience and expertise in Computational Mechanics. His current work focuses on the tissue characterisation within the diabetic foot to prevent ulcers. He has substantial experience in computational modelling and 3D printing.