The $100 fan that saves lives (+ full list of resources)

Alexandru Gavrilovici
3 min readMar 19, 2020
Design: Trevor Smale

* I should mention that the purpose of this article is not to cause panic

More than ever it is up to us (individually and collectively) to limit as much as possible the coronavirus impact. Everyone knows the basic measures, it is important to apply them and to encourage others to do it.

The fact that we live in Eastern Europe (Romania) has given us a small advantage — the epidemic started a little bit late here and we could use the information from the other countries. Long live technology! However, we need to be aware, and surely some of us do, that it is only a matter of time until we reach a number of cases such as Italy.

Probably, people will realize the seriousness of the situation when inevitably our medical system will collapse. I hope with all my heart to be wrong.

What are the tools we can use to avoid this crisis?

From my point of view, the solutions would be communities and technology. And you should read more about this subject in Salim Ismail’s book — Exponential Organizations. But, before I get into the subject, I want to tell you a story:

A few years ago, a 30-year-old Indian was hospitalized and soon developed a paralysis that prevented him from breathing. At the time, a mechanical ventilator wasn’t available in the hospital, so his mother and brother ventilated it with a manual device for 18 days non-stop until a fan was disposable. Fortunately, after 6 weeks of hospitalization, the man was sent home.

The moral of the story is there has always been a need for a simple, inexpensive ventilation device that can be accessed by anyone.

In 2005, the US government carried out a pandemic simulation, concluding that in a similar situation, 700.000 mechanical fans will be needed. In 2010, there were only 100.000 in use. Unfortunately, Italy was one of the countries that found itself in the delicate situation of not having enough fans and I’m afraid it won’t be the last.

But as any problem has a solution, in 2010, a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) created an automatic ventilation system that can be made with materials worth $100. The open-source project was abandoned, but due to the pandemic many technology enthusiasts revived it.

I am aware that numerous approvals, tests and certifications are needed, but I hope that in an emergency situation a system similar to the ones below can be implemented as soon as possible.

Resources: — the source article — the MIT project — a very interesting functional prototype — files of a similar open-source project — another similar open-source project — a resource document about open-source medical equipment — an article with the characteristics of a pandemic fan — design principles of a mechanical fan — a project similar to those at Rice University — Rice University’s project summary — another version of the pandemic fan — explanations about Manley’s fan — a similar project based in Portugal — a scientific article on allocating ventilators during large-scale disasters — an article on the same subject — a community of 10 thousand members discussing and producing various open-source medical equipment — another community dedicated to open-source medical equipment — another community of technology enthusiasts a similar community with only 300 members — a vice article on the same topic — a similar awarded project