Nvidia’s top scientist designed a $400 open-source ventilator

Nvidia's Bill Dally just designed a $400 ventilator.
Image: YouTube | OP-Vent

Although ventilators aren’t as buzz-worthy as they were a few weeks ago, they are still an important part of the world’s response to COVID-19. With that being said, coming up with creative new solutions to increase the number of available ventilators is important.

That’s exactly what Nvidia’s chief scientist Bill Dally is doing. He designed an open-source ventilator that can be built for about $400. Better yet, it uses widely-available parts—something that can’t be said for many of the newly-designed ventilators being pitched by other companies.

Best from the Best

Dally joined Nvidia back in 2009 in the chief scientist role following a 12-year stint at Stanford University. He is best known for his work with parallel computers and has designed system architecture, network architecture, signaling, routing, and synchronization technology found in most of them that exist today.

Recently, Dally set out to design a ventilator with simplicity and cost-effectiveness as top priorities. He worked with several mechanical engineers and doctors to design the machine in a way that makes it both practical and easy to use.

The resulting mechanical ventilator is composed of off-the-shelf parts and can be quickly assembled. Dally and his fellow researchers note that it can be put together in as little as five minutes. The total cost of the machine is a mere $400. That’s a significantly lower price tag than the $20,000 or more mark that traditional ventilators sell for. Dally has given the system the name OP-Vent and explained how it works in a brief YouTube video.

OP-Vent includes two central components—a solenoid valve and a microcontroller. These allow it to function reliably. It is worth noting that the ventilator is extremely bare-bones and isn’t a perfect replacement for the real thing. However, it is better than nothing in the face of a global shortage.

Ventilator To Go

Thanks to its simple design, OP-Vent fits inside a Pelican protective case. This is something else that differentiates the system from more complex ones. Since it can easily fit in a carrying case, the ventilator can be taken on the go. Whether it needs to be used by paramedics or a brick-and-mortar hospital, the OP-Vent gets to where it needs to go far easier than bulky ventilators.

Dally and his team are now working on getting approval from the FDA under its Emergency Use Authorization program. This would allow OP-Vent to be used in patient care settings across the United States.

Moreover, the team is looking for ways to pursue large-scale manufacturing of their ventilator.

Although most people that think of Bill Dally probably don’t associate him with healthcare machines, this ventilator is remarkable. It simply goes to show that the brightest minds in the tech world can flexibly adapt to solve almost any problem.


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