Story of NuVent

Everyone in a workplace has to work, some don’t like it and some do, but in the end of it all work has to be done. Over a period of time some will devise ways to derive pleasure out of it and some will train themselves to get over with “boring” office routine. For engineers though, it is a decision that will ultimately have an effect on their ability to deliver creative work. Engineers who enjoy their work and the challenge it presents are the best problem solvers. For them continuous learning by doing pushes them every day. They won’t like to involve themselves in theoretical battles and paper wars even if they are confined to their houses and not their home, that is the laboratory. 

A downside to it though is that if “hands on” engineers don’t get their dose of Adrenaline they will eventually succumb to boredom and the feeling of uselessness. They have to find a way to quinch their thirst by presenting themselves with a challenge.

During the Covid lockdown, the dire need of mechanical ventilators and fabrication of a local version was presented as a challenge to the engineering community of Pakistan. Without giving a second thought we started working on developing one. As the markets were closed and there was virtually nothing available from either the local market, online stores or even Amazon and Alibaba, we had to start literally from scratch. In the home of one of faculty we found a compressor and in the home of another one there were some electronic pneumatic valves. This was the starting point as we needed air at a higher pressure and a valve to control the amount (volume) and pressure to the patient. The next step was to have a controller to perform different sensing and actuation tasks for that we went with what was available, an off the shelf Arduino FPGA.

Before that stage however, there were many calls between faculty members, searching for expertise required for project. NUTECH as part of its experiential learning programs offers an ICAT term every year where students and faculty engage in a number of projects. One of the outcomes, which could not be perceived before the start of ICAT was that each member of the faculty came to know about expertise and interests of others and the ability to deliver projects, in a peculiar area. This made the task easy and surprisingly the team grew from two faculty members to six in a short span of time. All volunteers, craving to do something and dedicated to the core. The team would gather in the home of a faculty member after breakfast and would leave after post dinner snack that would sometimes be served at 2 AM. One of the faculty members would cook, serve food and others will do other housekeeping tasks. Unscheduled power naps were encouraged.

The project started in the drawing room, which was converted into a lab with carpets and furniture covered in sheets to avoid been thrown out by the lady of the house. Team members scavenged everything that could be used from their homes and so the project started to progress. 

In the span of two weeks a very basic version of the machine was developed. It could give breath to a patient at an adjustable rate and would provide variable volume and pressure. As the ventilator started taking shape it needed industrial grade pneumatic fittings and pipes. With the country in complete lockdown, it was a nightmare even to buy basic components like transistors, optical isolators and pressure sensors. Dawoodi Bohra community came to the rescue, as they have a very diverse and capable business enterprise stretched all over Pakistan and covering a wide array of commodities. They provided us with pressure reducing valves, pneumatic cylinders, shaft travel sensors and custom fittings. Needed parts will be delivered in twenty-four hours, to the doorstep and mostly on credit. Their ability to source, technical knowledge and business ethics gave NuVent team the tools and confidence to go on and focus on design and technical aspects.

After some days of achieving basic functionality, the news of project got to NUTECH.  The team was given a lab, administrative support was rendered, and funding was arranged. NUTECH labs are well equipped with test instruments and expendable electronic components. With new resources available the project started progressing on a fast pace. NuVent Team was lucky to have Muhammad Bilal Amjad, Obaid Ur Rehman Syed Meesam Raza and Muhammad Usman Rafique who are seasoned engineers with vast experience in delivering projects. The team also cherishes experience in working at major technological giants abroad like, Motorola, BMW and L3-Harris to name a few.

At the time of the start of the project the aim was to develop an emergency resuscitator, which is a very basic device to provide mechanical ventilation in the event of failure of respiratory system. Eighty five different teams, from across Pakistan were working on developing the same. In the summer of 2020 Pakistan Engineering Counsel declared itself as the certifying authority for indigenously developed ventilators and published a specification sheet, technically known as an ATP for developers to comply. This changed everything as the specifications were of the most advanced ventilators available from medical equipment technological giants like Drager, Hamilton and Philips. These machines take years of research and development and millions of dollars are spent on developing prototypes in most advanced biomedical labs. After ATP was issued most of volunteer groups stopped working and only a handful of teams committed themselves to keep working. NuVent team made the decision to carry on and take on the challenge.

It was clear after studying the ATP that we had to change everything, the cylinder travel-based design was not technically capable enough to meet ATP standards. Medical grade compressors were too expensive to make the project financially viable, pneumatic cylinders were not available in medical grade materials and so were pneumatic fittings. The team was not only under pressure to deliver in compliance with standards and specifications but also it had to be cost effective, easy to manufacture in bulk and to troubleshoot as well. One of the most difficult tasks was to make people understand the level of complexity and problems faced in sourcing components that will have medical grade certifications. Other teething problem was to make a software which was compliant to international standards for biomedical equipment. This was never done in Pakistan before, the team had to switch to Qt platform which when used in accordance with a very stringent coding regime could eventually get certified. Hundreds of hours of webinars and tutorials were studied before coding could even start.

Other restrictions which presented their unique challenge to the team was migration from commonly used commercial controllers like Raspberry Pi, Arduino and STM 32 to a medical grade certified controller. It was a nightmare as only one Swiss company offered the needed hardware with required level of robustness and medical certifications. The issue was that by committing to go for development with the new certified controller a thorough understanding of the “Blackbox” was needed. There was very limited technical information available for the controller and also there was no sample code given. The IO of the module was addressed and controlled in a way that is in a complete contradiction to the processes and procedures adopted for controllers in which the team had previous experience with. This was a daunting and time-consuming task but had its dividends as well. After going through the due process, the team mastered a hardware which has diverse applications. With the gained experience, NUTECH can now apply the knowledge on designing graphical user interfaces and control systems for other biomedical devices like haemodialysis machine and portable X-Ray systems to name a few. Time consumed in learning one skill for a project is time saved on the next one, provided that engineering processes are thoroughly understood and intellectual ability to use the acquired skill in other project applications is gained. This is known as developing a technology. In developed countries different companies and institutions develop technologies in the same manner. The technologies are then sold to other companies and organisations in the local and international markets to generate revenue. Entrepreneurs and start-ups use these technologies to develop products, establish industries and thus build industrial base.

In Pakistan we could not build an established industrial base due to the lack of understanding of developing technologies and the absence of long-lasting linkages between technology developers and the industry segment of economy. There is time required to develop technology worth cherishing and of true value. Unless indigenous intellectual pools are built by investing due time and finances this gap is going to grow wider by the day. NuVent is developed by an enthusiastic and self-motivated team who feel that the biggest responsibility for them is towards their profession and dedication to the cause. They, during the course of project were totally focused, immune to judgements and doubts of others and worked regardless of concern towards their well-being or personal comfort. NuVent is under final trials at Pakistan Engineering Council, NUTECH is confident that it will go into production after final approvals are granted by Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan.


Medical devices of class C category, such as ventilators, are most critical to design and manufacture, considering the life threating risks and hence are a big challenge to step into. Our team made sure that the final design does not only follow the basic requirements criteria, but is also designed on international standards which has export potential and follow industrial manufacturing benchmarks. Software of NuVent is developed as per ATP standards which were issued by PEC as guidelines for the manufacturing of medical grade ventilators on international standards. NuVent has 9 ventilation modes with an integrated O2 mixing and real time adjustable parameters.

NuVent offers following features:

  • Touch Controls hygienic and safe
  • Live change in control parameters
  • Audio and visual alarms
  • Easy comprehendible graphs
  • Easy migration
  • Two level redundant
  • Waveform freezing
  • Auto-scaling
  • Limits display for reference
  • Patient registry
  • Patient parameter guide
  • Physician friendly
  • Alarms history
  • Lung compliance chart
  • Multi-views
  • User friendly design
  • Humidifier option
  • NuVENT Remote ICU Access

Design Process

After hard work of our team, complete design of ICU ventilator has been done and tested. NuVent has been approved by PEC after rigorous software testing, quality assurance and test run of 28 days and is ready for clinical validations.  It has passed endurance test and is now at the final stage of clinical trials.

Development of 3D Printer

The Mechanical Department Team at NUTECH has developed a prototype 3D printer from scratch during ICAT 2020. The design is based on easy-to-find materials in the market. This project has been approved for the development of a commercial scale 3D printer named as NUPRINT. Our objective is to develop our own Graphic User Interface (GUI) for obtaining user design and printing requirements. Hence NUPRINT can target current local market in a better way as compared to other commercially available 3D Printers. Design and mechanism of this NUPRINT will be such that it can be developed from easily accessible components.