Space flight company Virgin Orbit has developed a new mass-producible bridge ventilator to help in the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Virgin Orbit team has been consulting with the Bridge Ventilator Consortium (BVC), led by the University of California Irvine (UCI) and the University of Texas at Austin (UT Austin), a group formed to spawn and nurture efforts to build producible, simple ventilators to aid in the current COVID-19 crisis.
Pending clearance by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Virgin Orbit aims to commence production at its Long Beach manufacturing facility in early April, hoping to deliver units into the hands of first responders and healthcare professionals as soon as possible.
By supplying “bridge” ventilators, it’s hoped that Virgin Orbit’s device can free up those critical resources for the most ill. “We face a slow-motion Dunkirk, and getting ventilators out there is very important to save lives,” said Dr. Brian J.F. Wong, assistant chairman of otolaryngology at UCI. “The demand outstrips supply, so it is important the government, industry, academia, non-profits, and the community work together to identify solutions, and design and construct them as fast as possible.”
Virgin Orbit engineers have taken rapid scaling into account from the beginning of the design process, taking advantage of the most common and robust manufacturing and assembly processes. The company’s aim is to have a functioning, deployable bridge ventilator in production in early April. Virgin Orbit would continue on to rapidly scale up to mass production in its Long Beach facility, in addition to potentially activating other manufacturers as soon as the new device is reproducible and production-ready.
“We are all heartbroken each night as we turn on the news and see the predicament facing doctors and nurses as they heroically work to save lives,” said Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart. “I have never seen our team working harder. Never seen ideas moving quicker from design to prototype. We are hopeful that this device can help as we all prepare for the challenges ahead.”