7 open {hardware} tasks working to unravel COVID-19

The open supply {hardware} motion has lengthy championed the significance of the suitable to restore, absolutely personal the expertise you purchase, and have the ability to remix and reproduce devices, similar to you possibly can with music. And so, throughout this difficult time, open {hardware} is offering some solutions to a number of the issues created by the coronavirus pandemic.

An outline of what is occurring

For one, {hardware} builders around the globe are working to resolve provide chain weaknesses utilizing open supply, the identical philosophy that has pushed a proliferation of recent software program applied sciences over the past 30 years. The {hardware} motion’s previous successes embrace the RepRap Undertaking, Open Supply Ecology, and Open Supply Beehives, proving this may be carried out.

There was growing curiosity in creators utilizing 3D printing and different applied sciences to create substitute elements for and manufacturing of security gear on demand. For instance, the Polytechnic College lab in Hong Kong

3D printed face shields

for hospital employees. And Italian startup Isinnova partnered with the FabLab in Milan to

3D-print substitute valves

for reanimation units in hard-hit Northern Italy. Corporations are additionally releasing designs to adapt our bodily interactions, like this

3D printed hands-free door opener

from Materialise. These examples of changing elements and fixing issues are a superb begin and seem like saving lives.

One other conventional {hardware} approach is choosing up steam: stitching. The AFP stories that there’s an acute want for face masks around the globe and steerage from the World Well being Group about their significance. With single-use, disposable masks being prioritized for healthcare employees, within the Czech Republic persons are taking to stitching to make their very own masks. (Repeat-use masks do introduce sterility issues.) The Fb group “Czechia sews face masks” began to deal with this downside of their nation, with tens of hundreds of members utilizing their at-home stitching machines.

Open supply {hardware} gear and equipment tasks are additionally gaining traction. First, there may be testing gear that’s refined and extremely succesful. Subsequent, there may be medical gear that may be categorized as field-grade (at greatest) for eventualities with no different choice. These tasks are outlined intimately under.

To study extra, I spoke with Jason Huggins, founder and CEO of Chicago-based Tapster Robotics. Tapster Robotics designs and manufactures desktop robots utilizing 3D printing, pc numerical management (CNC) machining, and open electronics like Arduino. He has each the technical know-how and the commercial capability to make an affect. And he desires to commit his firm’s sources to assist on this combat.

“Mainly, we’re in a World Warfare II mobilization second proper now. Though I am not a physician, we must always nonetheless all observe the Hippocratic Oath. No matter I do, I do not wish to make the issue worse,” Huggins explains. “As a counterpoint, there may be WHO govt director Dr. Michael Ryan’s remark: ‘Pace trumps perfection,'” Huggins argues.


This man is the worldwide authority on the unfold of illness. If you’re a pacesetter (in any capability) watch this. If you’re not, watch it too. pic.twitter.com/bFogaekehM

— Jim Richards Sh🎙wgram (@JIMrichards1010) March 15, 2020

Huggins has in depth expertise with delivering throughout occasions of want. His efforts have been instrumental in serving to Healthcare.gov scale after its difficult preliminary launch. He additionally created the software program industry-standard testing frameworks Selenium and Appium. With this expertise, his recommendation is nicely price contemplating.

I additionally spoke with Seattle-based legal professional Mark Tyson of Tyson Regulation, who works with startups and small companies. He has direct expertise working with nimble corporations in quickly evolving industries. In framing the general query, Tyson begins:

Good Samaritan legal guidelines shield volunteers—i.e., “Good Samaritans”—from being held liable on account of their resolution to offer assist throughout an emergency. Whereas the specifics of those legal guidelines range by state, they share a typical public coverage rationale: particularly, encouraging bystanders to assist others dealing with an emergency. Conceivably, this rationale might justify software of a majority of these legal guidelines in much less conventional settings than, say, pulling the sufferer of a automotive accident out of hurt’s means.

Making use of this particular state of affairs, Tyson notes:

“Earlier than taking motion, creators could be clever to talk with an legal professional to conduct a state-specific threat evaluation. It might even be prudent to ask bigger establishments, like hospitals or insurers, to simply accept potential legal responsibility publicity through contract—as an illustration, via the usage of indemnification agreements, whereby the hospital or its insurer agrees to indemnify the creator for legal responsibility.”

Tyson understands the urgency and gravity of the state of affairs. This selection to make use of contracts will not be meant to be a roadblock; as a substitute, it might be a means to assist adoption occur at scale to make a much bigger distinction quicker. It’s as much as you or your group to make this dedication.

With all that stated, let’s discover the tasks which might be in use or in growth (and could also be accessible for deployment quickly).

7 open {hardware} tasks combating COVID-19


Opentrons‘ open supply lab automation platform is comprised of a collection of open supply {hardware}, verified labware, consumables, reagents, and workstations. Opentrons says its merchandise may also help dramatically scale-up COVID-19 testing with programs that may “automate as much as 2,400 assessments per day inside days of an order being positioned.” It plans to ramp as much as 1 million examined samples by July 1.

The corporate is already working with federal and native authorities companies to find out if its programs can be utilized for medical analysis beneath an emergency use authorization. Opentrons is shared beneath an Apache 2.zero license. I first realized of it from biologist Kristin Ellis, who’s affiliated with the undertaking.

Chai Open qPCR

Chai’s Open qPCR gadget makes use of polymerase chain response (PCR) to quickly take a look at swabs from surfaces (e.g., door handles and elevator buttons) to see if the novel coronavirus is current. This open supply {hardware} shared beneath an Apache 2.zero license makes use of a BeagleBone low-power Linux pc. Knowledge from the Chai Open qPCR can allow public well being, civic, and enterprise leaders to make extra knowledgeable selections about cleansing, mitigation, facility closures, contract tracing, and testing.


OpenPCR is a PCR testing gadget equipment from Josh Perfetto and Jessie Ho, the creators behind the Chai Open qPCR. That is extra of a DIY open supply gadget than their earlier undertaking, but it surely has the identical use case: utilizing environmental testing to establish the coronavirus within the area. Because the undertaking web page states, “conventional real-time PCR machines able to detecting these pathogens sometimes price upwards of $30,000 US {dollars} and will not be appropriate for area utilization.” As a result of OpenPCR is a equipment customers construct and is shared beneath a GPLv3.zero license, the gadget goals to democratize entry to molecular diagnostics.

And, like all good open supply undertaking, there’s a spinoff! WildOpenPCR by GaudiLabs in Switzerland can be shared beneath a GPLv3.zero license.


Gaudi Labs’ PocketPCR thermocycler is used to activate organic reactions by elevating and reducing the temperature of a liquid in small take a look at tubes. It may be powered with a easy USB energy adapter, both tethered to a tool or by itself, with preset parameters that do not require a pc or smartphone.

Like the opposite PCR choices described on this article, this gadget might facilitate environmental testing for coronavirus, though its undertaking web page doesn’t explicitly state so. PocketPCR is shared beneath a GPLv3.zero license.

Open Lung Low Useful resource Ventilator

The Open Lung Low Useful resource Ventilator is a quick-deployment ventilator that makes use of a bag valve masks (BVM), also called an Ambu-bag, as a core element. Ambu-bags are mass-produced, licensed, small, mechanically easy, and adaptable to each invasive tubing and masks. The OPEN LUNG ventilator will use micro-electronics to sense and management air strain and movement, with the aim to allow semi-autonomous operation.

This early-stage undertaking boasts a big staff with a whole lot of contributors, led by: Colin Keogh, David Pollard, Connall Laverty, and Gui Calavanti. It’s shared beneath a GPLv3.zero license.

Pandemic Ventilator

The Pandemic Ventilator is a DIY ventilator prototype. Just like the RepRap undertaking, it makes use of generally accessible {hardware} parts in its design. The undertaking was uploaded by person Panvent to Instructables greater than 10 years in the past, and there are six main steps to producing it. The undertaking is shared beneath a CC BY-NC-SA license. This video reveals the system in motion:

Folding at House

Folding at House is a distributed computing undertaking for simulating protein dynamics, together with the method of protein folding and the actions of proteins implicated in quite a lot of illnesses. It’s a call-to-action for citizen scientists, researchers, and volunteers to make use of their computer systems at house to assist run simulations, much like the decommissioned SETI@House undertaking. When you’re a technologist with succesful pc {hardware}, Folding at House is for you.

Folding at House makes use of Markov state fashions (proven above) to mannequin the attainable shapes and folding pathways a protein can take in an effort to search for new therapeutic alternatives. Yow will discover out extra in regards to the undertaking in Washington College biophysicist Greg Bowman’s submit on the way it works and how one can assist.

The undertaking entails a consortium of educational laboratories, contributors, and company sponsors from many nations, together with Hong Kong, Croatia, Sweden, and the US. Folding at House is shared beneath a mixture of GPL and proprietary licenses on GitHub and is multi-platform for Home windows, macOS, and GNU/Linux (e.g., Debian, Ubuntu, Mint, RHEL, CentOS, Fedora).

Many different attention-grabbing tasks

These tasks are only a fraction of the exercise occurring within the open {hardware} area to unravel or deal with COVID-19. In researching this text, I found different tasks price exploring, akin to:

These tasks are based mostly everywhere in the world, and this kind of international cooperation is precisely what we’d like, because the virus ignores borders. The novel coronavirus pandemic impacts nations at totally different occasions and in numerous methods, so we’d like a distributed method.

As my colleague Steven Abadie and I write within the OSHdata 2020 Report, the open supply {hardware} motion is a world motion. Taking part people and organizations with licensed tasks are situated in over 35 nations around the globe and in each hemisphere.

If you’re thinking about becoming a member of this dialog with open supply {hardware} builders around the globe, be a part of the Open {Hardware} Summit Discord server with a devoted channel for conversations about COVID-19. Yow will discover roboticists, designers, artists, firmware and mechanical engineers, college students, researchers, and others who’re combating this battle collectively. We hope to see you there.


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