UJ Creates Portable, 3D-Printed Ventilator That Supports Multiple Patients

The UJ-led team plans to distribute the active breathing circuit system on an "open source" basis.


The University of Johannesburg (UJ) engineering team designed and developed portable 3D printed mechanical ventilators that have a customisable base plate to treat multiple patients.

​South Africa faces a looming ventilator shortage as the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases increases, daily.

As of yesterday, a cumulative total of 224 665 confirmed COVID-19 cases in South Africa have been reported. Gauteng Province has now overtaken Western Cape as the province with the highest number of cases cumulatively.

The ventilator, named AURA IMPRIMERE, meaning ‘A Breeze of Air provided by printing’ is portable and allows off-grid operations for up to one and a half hours.

uj 3d printer
uj 3d printer

Professor Tien-Chien Jen, UJ’s Head of Department of Mechanical Engineering Science and project team leader, says the ventilators are safe to operate.

“These unique 3D printable ventilators use a microcontroller to control the operation of the two motors. By adjusting the speed and direction of rotation of the motors, it is possible to obtain a pressure-time profile that is suitable for respiratory assistance of patients.”

AURA IMPRIMERE has a battery system that will ensure normal functioning whilst the demand for electricity exceeds the available supply, adds Prof Jen.

“Its components are designed in such a way that it can be easily assembled, on site in cities, rural areas, or remote areas.”

“The microcontroller monitors the pressure inside the Ambu bag by using a pressure sensor. If the pressure sensor picks up irregularities in the pressure, then the motor controller will intervene to correct these issues. It is also important that the mechanical arms of the ventilator operate in unison. Sensors that monitor the position of the ventilator arms are also used to enable the microcontroller to keep the mechanical arms of the ventilator in sync,” explains Prof Jen.

The UJ-led team plans to distribute the active breathing circuit system on an “open source” basis, making the software and designs freely available and can be produced anywhere in the world, provided that the producers own a 3D printer.



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