SNOLAB team helping to develop ventilators that can be built anywhere in the world with off-the-shelf parts

Shortages of ventilators have caused panic the world over during the Covid-19 pandemic. But an international team of physicists and engineers has put its mind to the task of dealing with the shortages.

Hope is to ease ventilator shortage by making an open-source design available everywhere

These are the first five Mechanical Ventilator Milano (MVM) prototype ventilators that were shipped to Canada from Italy. (SNOLAB )

Ventilator shortages have caused panic the world over during the COVID-19 pandemic, but an international team of physicists and engineers has put its mind to the task of dealing with the problem — and a Sudbury contingent is on that team. 

Using their collective knowledge of gas-handling and electronic control systems in the search for dark matter in the universe, they've designed an open-source ventilator — one that can be built relatively quickly, anywhere in the world,  with off-the-shelf parts.

Sudbury's SNOLAB (Sudbury Neutrino Observatory Lab) is part of the team, including Richard Ford, who is the Director of Projects. 

Richard Ford is the Director of Projects at SNOLAB in Sudbury. (Filion Photography)

He said currently, ventilators are technically complicated in relative terms. But an Italian physicist came up with an idea to design an open-source ventilator, now known as the Mechanical Ventilator Milano project.

"So the idea behind this open-source model is that the design is available and published online [free of charge] and then individual countries could make their implementation of that, using parts that are more available locally within the country," Ford said.

He added the North American version of this ready-to-build ventilator is already designed and a prototype is being built. But first the machine still has a few more regulatory and safety hurdles to cross before it can be used in hospitals.

Illustration of the MVM ventilator and possible breathing circuit. An international team is developing this model, after an Italian physicist came up with an idea to design a ventilator that could be built quickly, using parts that are readily available. (


With files from Jessica Pope