Work Jan 12, 2021


Find out more

No human being should be denied proper care because of a lack of medical devices. That’s the assumption that originated a unique project aimed at saving lives during the pandemic.

As Covid-19 spread across Northern Italy and the world, around 6% of the people infected needed help to breath and effective medical intervention requires the use of mechanical ventilation, which is used in hospitals to pump oxygen into the lungs and then to remove carbon dioxide as the patient breathes out. Unfortunately, due to the high number of patients in need of this intervention, the existing production lines couldn’t meet the local and global needs.

An innovative idea that expanded rapidly

An innovative idea originated in the international research projectThe Global Argon Dark Matter Collaboration, that includes experience with gas handling systems and complex control systems – the same capabilities required in hospital ventilators.

And last spring Cristiano Galbiati, the spokesperson for the GADM Collaboration, received government permission to develop a first prototype of a mechanical ventilator, the Mechanical Ventilator Milano, or MVM.

The project expanded rapidly to include national laboratories, Princeton University and educational institutions around the world. As Studio Volpi we took part to the project, supporting our client Elemaster Group - certified experts in the design and production of medical devices - who has been the coordinator since the early phases of the Ventilator development, enabling the implementation of the first prototypes.

The first Ventilator for Covid patients

We spoke to Silvia Torretta, our Technical Leader, who, with her team, took part to the development of the mechanics and the prototyping of the project.

“It’s been a truly unique experience: we worked as part of a huge team, spread across the world. It was very special to attend meetings online with a hundred people from Australia, Africa, the US, Italy…”, Silvia said. “Since the beginning of the project, medical teams were involved and every aspect of the ventilator was tested by doctors in Milan, facing the Covid pandemic first-hand. That’s why the MVM ventilator is the first ventilator developed to specifically support Covid patients”.

The MVM Ventilator: ethical, open-source and accessible

Silvia also underlines the strong ethical mission of the MVM Ventilator: “The scope of the work was to develop an accessible mechanical ventilator. First of all the project is completely open source, so that anyone around the world can take part to it and also use it to build their own ventilator”.

The MVM Ventilator project, furthermore, has been developed to be built with easily accessible materials and technologies so that its production can be carried out everywhere in the world with locally sourced materials. The product has been developed also for maximum compatibility with electricity and oxygen distribution networks, which are different depending on the geographical context.

The MVM Ventilator is not only a technically accessible solution, but it’s also a cost-effective machine, priced less of a traditional mechanical ventilator.

The development process of the ventilator is also unique: it was approved by the FDA, the US Food and Drugs Association, in only few months, thus becoming immediately accessible to hospitals and medical facilities.

Download the Mechanical Ventilator Milano Case

To learn more about our projects, go to our latest Insights. And stay tuned for more content about the MVM Ventilator project and ethics in Product Design and Engineering.