Maryland Engineers Converting Breast Pumps Into Ventilators

The device needs approval from the Food and Drug Administration

NBC Universal, Inc.

A group of engineers in Maryland says breast pumps — machines many moms have at home — could be a game-changer in saving lives during the coronavirus pandemic.

"This has been really exciting for me," engineer Rachel Labatt said.

Labatt, Brandi and Grant Gerstner, Alex Scott and Director Tommy Luginbill are a team of engineers from southern Maryland.

They say they've found a simple way to convert breast pumps into ventilators.

"That is just by switching two tubes on the inside … we reversed the actions of the pump to now be a positive pressure system," Labatt said.

This turns the pump into what the team calls an “intermittent positive pressure ventilation” device that safely replicates the job of a ventilator.

"We can control the respiratory rate. We can control the volume and pressure," she said.

Their ingenuity could potentially save thousands of lives and help with the shortage of air ventilators across the country, the team says.

"The thought of being able to help Americans all across the U.S. is motivation in and of itself," Labatt said.

It takes the team four hours to build one.

An air ventilator can cost anywhere from $5000 to $50,000 dollars. The group's prototypes would cost $500.

But the device still needs approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

"We are going through the approval process and understanding what we need," Luginbill said.

The team says it needs breast pump donations. If you or anyone you know would like to donate, you can email

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