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World responding to Lebanon man's design increasing capacity of ventilators

Lebanon — Robert Conley's exhausted.

His phone hasn't stopped ringing since news reports this past weekend of his role in designing the Ventilator Quad Splitter, a device that can connect a single breathing machine to as many as seven or eight COVID-19 patients at the same time.

Conley, 56, an associate professor at Three Rivers Community College in Norwich and owner of Interactive CAD Solutions, an engineering design company in Lebanon, said Wednesday he's had inquiries from Italy, Germany, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines and Pakistan in the last couple of days from people interested in his splitter design, which can be produced on 3D printers.

With ventilators in notoriously short supply, the invention's impact could be far-reaching.

Conley said he got involved in the project last week by responding to another small businessman's plea. Kevin Dyer, chief executive officer of InterPRO Additive Manufacturing Group in Deep River, a 3D printing firm, was looking for help designing a valve that could increase a ventilator's capacity. Dyer had answered the call of a pulmonologist at Manchester Hospital, Dr. Saud Anwar, a Democratic state senator from South Windsor.

Conley sent Dyer his first design last Thursday. Dyer printed a prototype the next day, and he and Conley promptly presented it to doctors at Manchester Hospital.

The doctors had some initial issues with the valve, saying the air pathways to and from each patient had to have air-purifying filters, Conley said.

It took him a couple of hours to redo his design.

"Kevin (Dyer) printed it overnight and on Saturday, they tested it at the hospital," Conley said. "It worked pretty good."

Anwar demonstrates the device in a YouTube video at bit.ly/CVventilator.

"We want to show how you can actually use one ventilator to give breathing capacity and help to not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, but actually seven people, and we can go up to eight if we need to," Anwar says in the video. "We've been working collaboratively together ... people of all different backgrounds."

A Navy veteran who served on the USS Dallas, a nuclear-powered attack submarine, Conley said he has no intention of profiting from sales of his design, should the Ventilator Quad Splitter gain regulatory approvals.

"I'm not going to patent it," he said of his design. "Anybody with a 3D printer can print it out and start making these."

A diabetic, Conley said he's emulating the doctors who discovered insulin, the treatment for diabetes, who he said declined offers of financial reward.

"That was such an important discovery, they wanted to share it with the world," he said. "This is my gift to the world."

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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