ZA Ventilator Design Challenge

Congratulations to Nicholas Matter, Myles Walker, Graham Gillet and everyone at Solmat Engineering & Systems Technology Consulting who helped with this incredible design.

Let’s take a quick look at winning design. The SAVENT-V1 makes use of the BVM automation method with the prototype being built with a VADI Silicon Ambu Bag, pumped by a cam driven controlled travel mechanism and powered by a 12V geared motor. This allows you to control speed in order to achieve the desired BPM rate.

Solmat Engineering & Systems Technology will receive R5 000 cash prize along with the opportunity for their SAVENT-V1 design to be presented to the team at Denel and UKZN for design assessment and the potential to be refined for production.

Well done to all individuals and teams who entered the ZA Ventilator Challenge. We hope to see more entries from you in future challenges. To keep up to date with what Makers With Purpose is doing and learn more about any future challenges join the MWP Facebook Group.


Purpose of challenge

With the current COVID-19 pandemic, it has become clear that access to ventilators for the seriously ill is essential, yet at the same time they are difficult to procure. There have been a number of global movements to produce an easy to use, low cost, low complexity ventilator in high volumes, especially for countries with under-prepared healthcare systems such as South Africa.

During our research into how we can achieve this, it has become apparent that there are many groups working on this problem locally. These groups range in size and complexity from individuals with bright ideas operating from their garage, all the way through to large organisations with massive engineering teams. What is clear, however, is that the solution is out there, although the person with the right idea may just not have the resources or capabilities to put it into production.

With support from Denel and UKZN, the teams at Maxwell+Spark and DIYElectronics set up the #ZAVentilatorChallenge in order to bring the best ideas in the community to the forefront.

Ventilator Specifications


  • 1.  Pressure regulated mandatory volume control mode (eg. PSV) and/or BiPAP
  • 2.  Preferable to have a spontaneous breathing pressure support mode (eg. ACV and/or SIMV) for those patients breathing to some extent themselves, e.g. BIPAP or SIMV-PC or AC (Assist Control); but should include “mandatory minute ventilation” failsafe or some function to check for minimum breaths per minute (and volume)
  • 3.  Adjustable plateau pressure (eg. 5 to 40cmH2O); mechanical failsafe over-pressure valve
  • 4.  PEEP (adjustable 5-20cmH2O range)
  • 5.  Mechanical failsafe pressure valve at 80cmH2O
  • 6.  Tidal volume adjustable, should have at least 300ml to 600ml range, up to 800ml is preferred.
  • 7.  Respiratory Rate adjustable (in mandatory mode or failsafe) 8-30 breaths per minute
  • 8.  I:E ratio: 1:2 (Advantage to designs with adjustable I:E 1:1 to 1:4)
  • 9.  Controlled FiO2 (preferably 30% to 100%, with +-5% worst accuracy)
  • 10.  Alarms:
    •      –  Gas or electricity supply failure.
    •      –  Machine switched off while in mandatory ventilation mode.
    •      –  Inspiratory airway pressure exceeded.
    •      –  Inspiratory and PEEP pressure not achieved (equivalent to disconnection alarm).
    •      –  Tidal volume not achieved or exceeded.
  • 11.  Display:
    •      –  Must show the current settings of tidal volume, frequency, PEEP, FiO2, ventilation mode.
    •      –  Must show the actual current airway pressure
    •      –  Preferably should show the achieved tidal volume, breathing rate, PEEP, and FiO2.
    •        If pressure support mode is provided there must be real time confirmation of each patient breath and an alarm if below acceptable range.

Other Advantageous Judging Criteria

  • Locally stocked and sourced components are a major advantage to project success
  • Phase 2 prototyping would benefit from testing on an artificial lung, this should be done if possible.
  • Full BOM with local suppliers listed will be needed for submission.
  • Advantage to designs which provide CO2 monitoring. (Capnograph)Additional judging criteria are to be released shortly, please check back soon.

Additional Resources / Reading Material

The specifications listed are based on our own research of the medical needs for COVID-19 along with understanding of the South African environment. In addition we have extracted key points from the following publications:

MHRA RMVS001_v3.1 (Design is well aligned with these specifications)

NVP SSA4003-0009-000_Rev1_NVSReqSpec – signed (Specifications of the NVP project are quite different to ours, but there is some good reference material here) 


Please register in our community forum and discuss with us.


To offer a realistic path to volume production for a brilliant home-grown SA ventilator design!!
This is via the relationship we have with Denel, who are working with the SA Department of Health.

We are both Durban based companies, just a few years old (perhaps a little way out of the “start-up” phase). We are both very concerned about our company’s and our staff futures and well-being in the face of COVID, but wanted to make a small contribution to SA’s effort to help [also, we like a challenge!]

Since we have close ties into China, we first attempted to import ventilators to donate (but the Resmed BiPAP units we found access to, at the time, were all bought up) We have 10+ brilliant engineers, production equipment and space within our companies, so we then began investigating building simple ventilators (~20 March). A search for others doing the same soon showed just how many other groups were doing the same. We wondered how the best design might bubble up – how to help within that landscape – hence #ZAVentilatorChallenge

We offer each entrant three options (selected at time of entry, changed only by agreement):

    1. The design will be open-source (so really anyone could make it). If it goes into production, salaries will need to be paid (we hope yours will be one), but it will be run as not-for-profit.
    2. The designer passes the license to Denel, and if anyone profits from the design, ever (in particular after COVID-19), the designer is paid 15% to 30% of net profit as royalties. The exact percentage will need to be agreed by both parties but should depend on the extent of contribution & modification to the production design by each party involved.
    3. You can enter and see if you win but choose to take your design somewhere other than Denel to progress it to production (the parties running this competition retain no rights to the design).


While we believe in Open Source, the bigger issue here is saving lives. And we also know that sometimes the best way to do things well is for those involved to make money! This is YOUR CHOICE.

We made good progress on our own design and have looked at several other foreign and local designs. Most require parts to the value of about R15 000.

In general, a lower parts cost (for a given level of function and reliability) is better. BUT we want to allow for any brilliant design to have a chance – maybe there’s one that lends itself to ventilating two patients, or maybe one that doctors agree will be more likely to save lives (eg. assist control with open airway & CO2 monitoring; something we haven’t even thought of). On the flip side, it gives us the chance to put more than one design forward.

As long as you have their permission or it’s Open Source, yes. In fact, we’d suggest drawing on designs from the open-source community!
Try looking here:

You do need to state clearly which previous designs have been used / incorporated.

Yes, they are working together, but more in parallel. Denel has separate channels and the nature of the minimum ventilator specifications required by this Challenge are aligned to those of Denel rather than those of NVP. The different specifications will be useful for different COVID patients – both are needed.

According to our contacts at Smith+Nephew, Denel and DoH, SANAS approval is [amazingly] NOT necessary even during usual times. A degree of testing will be required (see documentation on our website), and approved distribution channels need to be used to get medical devices into hospitals. Denel would oversee these things – it is one of the reasons for working with them.

Yes – this will be overseen by Denel should the design get through to the final stage. Some design modifications might be required and it is envisaged that this might involve collaboration between the designer and Denel or their production company.
Testing on a hospital lung simulator / respiratory dummy or similar device is encouraged before submission to Denel. The Challenge organisers may be able to assist in this.

This is not guaranteed, but depending on the nature of assistance required, our ability to do so and the perceived benefit, we would like to assist in-kind as well as with funding.

It certainly is, particularly using one of the open source designs (perhaps with some of your own modifications). Lots of people in SA and abroad have already done it! But the competition is perhaps aimed more at those dozens of individuals and groups who have already been at this for weeks!

No! Not even all off-the-shelf designs incorporate these. But if you can figure out a way to do it within budget, that would be a great feature (according to our medical advisors).

Yes, as long as the focus is for production in South Africa and distribution in Southern Africa.

Terms and Conditions:

Please Note: Terms and Conditions are subject to change, please check again at the opening of submissions.

  1. DIY Electronics, M+S and their partners may, at their sole discretion, assist in prototype production per (1) in the competition leaflet, in which case some funds awarded may be utilized towards these costs.
  2. Submissions will close at 100 entries.
  3. If no design meets the minimum criteria for mass production and patient use by the judges, no award will be issued per (1) in the competition leaflet. Awards per (4) in the competition leaflet will still be given to the best entry/s.
  4. Once a design and / or prototype is entered, all rights to the design and / or prototype will pass to open source license, unless entrant chooses otherwise per Q&A above “Is anyone going to make money out of my design?
  5. The competition organisers will endeavour to acknowledge the designers in all communications related to their design.
  6. The competition organisers have the right to use entries for media and marketing purposes.
  7. Designs and prototypes will be essentially judged on the following criteria:
    1. Efficacy for the ventilation of persons with compromised respiratory function;
    2. Practicality of use in a hospital and non-hospital (field) environment;
    3. Cost effectiveness in mass production;
    4. Ease of procuring all components, materials and parts.
  8. Judge selection is subject to change during all phases. However judges will be impartial and with sufficient experience and qualification to render an appropriate decision. The intention is that judging of (1) will be carried out principally under the auspices of UKZN.
  9. The judge’s decision is final.
  10. The submission date includes delivery of any prototype, but prototype delivery may be extended to 13:00 on the following day (13 April) by special request.
  11. DIY Electronics and M+S reserve the right to submit their own design to Denel, however will not participate in the competition.
  12. Monies awarded in terms of (1) are to be used towards prototype refinement and manufacture only. Receipts and invoices will be required and unused funds will be reimbursed to the Challenge sponsors.
  13. The cash prize will be awarded upon submission of the full prototype (B) and associated production receipts and invoices.
  14. Once a prototype has been selected, and should the prototype be placed into production, remuneration of the designer will be part of the costs of the manufacture of the prototype.