Hundreds of Volunteers Are Working to Create Open-Source Ventilators to Fight Coronavirus

The goal is to create one million devices that cost less than $200 and operate with little to no power

Melanie Ehrenkranz
Published in
5 min readMar 27, 2020


Photo: picture alliance/Getty Images

CCoronavirus attacks the lungs. In some cases, your throat and chest may rattle from the effort just to breathe. It’s fast become common knowledge that ventilators can be a life-saving intervention — and that there simply aren’t enough of the machines to meet the growing number of patients. As a last resort, some hospitals are deploying the experimental technique of hooking two patients up to one unit.

Without support from the government, a community of volunteers is stepping up to address the shortages. Across the globe, volunteer health care experts and engineers are building open-source ventilators so that doctors don’t have to decide who should get them.

As of Friday, more than 250 people around the world have signed up on a Google Sheet to volunteer for an effort to develop one million emergency ventilators. The document is open — anyone can add their name and information to help — and is being used to field experts and organize people into appropriate teams. The team behind the project, the 1 Million Ventilators project, wants to design a device that “will be easy to transport, sanitize, and use in low- and no-power settings” and can scale to cover at least a million minor cases at less than $200 a pop. The device, they note, should require no more than an hour of training to operate.

The 1 Million Ventilators project is just one of many ad hoc community undertakings popping up to address the life-or-death scarcity of these breathing machines. Just One Giant Lab (JOGL), a France-based nonprofit using decentralized open research to “resolve humanity’s most urgent challenges,” is also building out a collective to make open-source ventilators. As the pandemic accelerates and health care workers face ventilator shortages, hundreds of volunteers around the world are signing up to fill in the gaps.

As President Trump continues to minimize the need for additional equipment while hospitals overflow with patients urgently needing access to ventilators, these crowdsourced efforts might serve as one of the few…