Electric syringe pumps, or self-pumping syringes, are medical devices used to slowly and automatically administer small quantities of fluid. Hospitals mobilized against Covid-19 are in short supply of this vital instrument. Electrolab is developing an open source prototype.
Yannick Avelino is a trained engineer, electronics consultant and founding member of Electrolab and Open Space Makers, both non-profit organizations based in Nanterre, just west of central Paris. Inside the Electrolab makerspace, volunteers are hard at work trying to meet the needs of medical staff fighting the Covid-19 epidemic. In this interview, Yannick introduces their open syringe pump project.
Makery: How did you get organized to produce equipment for medical staff?
Yannick Avelino: The most important gear are masks and face shields. Then come respirators and syringe pumps. For respirators, there are several open source initiatives, but they’re more aimed toward the international response. The French government has already mobilized Air Liquide, PSA, Schneider Electric. In France, we believe that industrial-level production is the most appropriate. So we decided to focus our efforts on areas where we can really make a contribution. First we made face shields and delivered 150 to Nanterre Hospital, 50 to Robert Debré Hospital in Paris, then to the Red Cross, Montreuil Hospital, nursing homes… To this day, 1200 “made in Electrolab” face shields have been delivered.
La production pour @CASH_HopitalMF @HopRobertDebre @CroixRouge bat son plein !
Merci à la communauté "tiers-lieux" pour la traduction du manuel d'utilisation en 4 langues !https://t.co/wqQtdWWCAz@makeryfr @MissionSoNum pic.twitter.com/7Zkw64KPHC
— L'Electrolab (@Electrolab_Fr) April 1, 2020
What was your model for the face shield?
We designed a laser cut model to go faster. The cost was 50 cents, fabrication time was a few minutes. As this production was pretty low-cost, we simply chose a disposable material. All the hospitals disinfect them at night and reuse them. Someone soaks them in a decontaminating bath.
80 visières livrées ce jour à L'Hôpital #Montreuil
Commentaires du personnel:
« Ils sont parfaits! Super légers ! »
« Vous pouvez proposer ce modèle car il est confortable et efficace »
« Merci à vous ce genre de protection change notre quotidien »#covid19 #SoutienAuxSoignants pic.twitter.com/4bljkSfFyV
— L'Electrolab (@Electrolab_Fr) April 3, 2020
The Réseau Français des Fablabs challenges people to make syringe pumps, which are in short supply. What motivated you to design a prototype at Electrolab?
When it came to syringe pumps, we didn’t find anything very convincing to supply the hospitals. So we evaluated the needs in terms of numbers. The director of intensive care at Montreuil Hospital told us that the need for syringe pumps was about 100 per hospital in France. AP-HP already covers 38 hospitals, that’s a lot of staff who need equipment. At this very moment a prototype is being tested at Lariboisière Hospital, with nurses in intensive care. The project came through one of our members, who is an anesthesiologist at Lariboisière. We received encouraging feedback, a few adjustments were made to the force sensor, more modifications were done over the weekend. We’re doing more precision tests this afternoon and tomorrow morning. Otherwise we’re also designing a second version. The electronic box is now a standard box, in order to increase the rate of fabrication. Everything is 3D printed. Of course, we also redesigned the pieces so that the majority can also be manufactured by machining.
How will these syringe pumps be used?
Well, the core issue for all this is certification. For medical projects, certification takes months. We don’t have that kind of time. We chose to make the prototype as safe as possible by using various sensors. There is a force sensor to measure the pressure on the syringe and another sensor to measure how far the pump moves. We also included hardware safety on the electronics in order to keep the motor in check. An alarm goes off and you stop pushing. The idea was to integrate as much safety as possible so that in case of emergency, it’s the doctors who decide. We chose to reassure them by implementing these safety features, which they can also use. Of course, it’s impossible for us as volunteers, and within this urgent timeframe to get formal certification for this equipment in the labs. However, we’re working with government organizations to advise doctors on this equipment, even if it’s just a recommendation. That’s where we are now.
How are you getting the raw material?
This project attracted the attention of Fondation de l’Avenir, which mobilized Fondation de l’académie de Chirurgie and CARAC (retirement mutual) to provide some financial aid to purchase the raw material for the prototypes. We need to make sure we have enough supplies to produce enough pumps. This way, institutions who want to use them can do so and implement their own line of production.
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