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COVID-19’s Helping Hand, Medical Ventilators, Require Semiconductor Components to Function

COVID-19’s Helping Hand, Medical Ventilators, Require Semiconductor Components to Function

Published 04-10-20

Submitted by onsemi

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by  Steven Dean  

As I write this, I’m working in my home office sequestered like most of the world’s population. I take this time to write while it is quiet, as quietness has quickly become a rarity in this household.  My wife Kathy and I are babysitting our grandson Charlie, while Charlie’s mom is deemed an essential worker as an Intensive Care Unit nurse at a local Arizona hospital. As we operate under a state-wide ‘stay at home order’ here in Arizona, babysitting our grandson could, through a certain lens, appear like we are non-compliant to that order. Well, we’re not.   Currently, she’s acting as a resource nurse with 31 COVID-19 patients, 11 of which are relying on medical ventilators, a life-saving technology that is unfortunately under a global shortage during this pandemic.

The rapid increase in the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations has created an unprecedented strain on the world’s inventory of ventilators. ON Semiconductor and our operations have also been deemed as essential and critical infrastructure by the Department of Homeland Security as our company is a supplier of semiconductor components, which are a critical part of the supply chain for medical device manufacturers. Our products are used in a variety of medical devices, including ventilators, which are helping keep COVID-19 patients with severe cases breathing. For those unfamiliar with a medical ventilator, ventilators move air in and out of the lungs in cases where patients are not physically able to breathe on their own and applications or use cases can be quite broad. Often the machine forces humidified and warmed air with supplemental oxygen into the lungs. Equipment can be found in intensive care units, emergency rooms, ambulatory (meaning first responder situations) and in the home.

Here I explain how my family and I are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the significance of ON Semiconductor’s life-saving medical technologies.

 Complexity can differ greatly but common variables in a medical ventilator system are:

  • The measurement of oxygen the ventilator is delivering during inspiration (or phase)

  • Respiration rate per minute

  • Tidal volume, which is the volume of each breath delivered

  • Sensitivity, or how much inspiratory or trigger effort is required from the ventilator to recognize a patient's attempt at inhalation. A trigger would prevent a ‘mechanical breath’, or a breath initiated by the ventilator

  • Peak flow, or the flow of breaths

Our team of experts at ON Semiconductor has worked diligently to provide a high-level system architecture for medical ventilators. Let’s dive into the many capabilities our components can offer these life-saving devices.

The architecture shown above is able to control one high-performance BLDC Air Pump (or more with the multiples of the same BLDC drivers), which is the "heart" of every medical ventilator. Each valve drive module implemented into the end customer application device can drive up to six valves simultaneously, even if only three valve types are displayed in the customer's proposal. 

For commonly used back-up batteries, our multi-cell battery chargers are good solutions for keeping every battery in a fully-charged state to be able to deliver the power when needed. As many manufacturers are using the multiple-battery setup, our solution can be extended to as many hot-swappable batteries as the manufacturer implements by adding more battery controllers.

Further, we offer several options including Bluetooth® Low EnergyWi-Fi and Sub-GHz radios for connecting to external data systems and hosts. Voice User Interface (VUI) is supported, as well as an alarm system for critical events with amplification for loudspeaker support.

Lastly, connectivity solutions also include multiple USB ports for connections to external drives, voice recognition hardware, internal display output with display drive, backlight drive and an HDMI output port that can be used to project the touch screen externally.

Many of the devices supported are automotive qualified, a benefit that is becoming popular within the medical device manufacturing community. These automotive-rated devices usually offer more durability and extended working temperature ranges, making these features and capabilities attractive to the medical industry as well for diagnostic features and fault protection functions for safety.

ON Semiconductor offers technologies and solutions that are used to, in collaboration with our customers and partners, improve lives through innovative semiconductor solutions. We’re glad that our products are contributing to life-saving medical technology during this time and want to continue to make a difference across all industries with our semiconductor components.

For a more detailed walk-through of a ventilator block diagram, watch this video.

Learn more about how ON Semiconductor’s products are making a difference in their 2018 Corporate Social Responsibility Report.

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onsemi (Nasdaq: ON) is driving disruptive innovations to help build a better future. With a focus on automotive and industrial end-markets, the company is accelerating change in megatrends such as vehicle electrification and safety, sustainable energy grids, industrial automation and 5G and cloud infrastructure. With a highly differentiated and innovative product portfolio, onsemi creates intelligent power and sensing technologies that solve the world’s most complex challenges and leads the way in creating a safer, cleaner and smarter world. Learn more about onsemi at

Corporate Social Responsibility at onsemi: We believe in our people, culture and ability as good corporate citizens to address climate issues, sustainability and positively impact the communities where we work and live. Empowering the right people and partners creates long-term shared value to further our commitment to the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. Since our first Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Statement of Commitment in 2008, our program has continually grown through innovation in our initiatives and strategic goals to deliver value to our stakeholders. Our philanthropic contributions, supporting nonprofits and educational institutions globally, and employee volunteer efforts target societal needs.

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