On Monday, Medtronic (MDT 0.83%)made public all the schematics and software required to build a portable ventilator, and authorized anyone to use them for free to manufacture the lifesaving devices for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic. The package of materials should make it much easier for different companies to collaborate and manufacture ventilators.
The model whose specs were published is the Puritan Bennett 560, a popular portable respirator that Ireland-domiciled Covidien launched in 2010, a few years before Medtronic -- now the world's largest manufacturer of medical devices -- merged with it. The 10-pound device, as originally marketed, comes with a lithium-ion battery that provides 11 hours of remote power. Caregivers can also use a USB drive to transfer data from the ventilator to a computer where they can analyze a patient's progress.
Medtronic included more than a few caveats for manufacturers and healthcare providers when it offered up its DIY ventilator plans. In a nutshell, regulatory approvals for makeshift PB 560s are not the company's responsibility. Also, any device made from the plans must be labeled with a warning noting that it was built in response to COVID-19, and is only to be used to address this pandemic.
It could be hard for Medtronic to prevent cash-strapped healthcare providers around the world from using those PB 560s once the coronavirus crisis is behind us, but that's the plan. And in the meantime, Medtronic's ventilator model stands to gain even more popularity.