A 40-year-old invention still saves lives today
Piab’s engineering team invented the light-weight Chip pump in 1981 recognizing the need to place a vacuum pump close to the suction point. Today it is still used by one of the major German medical equipment manufacturers in bronchial secretion aspirators that help severely affected COVID-19 patients to maintain functional breathing capability.
In addition to respiratory machines, secretion aspirators are needed to stabilize the lung function of the ill. The vacuum generated by Piab’s Chip pump ensures that secretions, blood and other liquids can be sucked off quietly and in large quantities.
Originally produced with an aluminium housing and glued in brass nozzles gradually a complete set of pumps with different characteristics and different sizes was established. This included a small pump packed in plastic with one nozzle integrated into the housing called the Vacuum Chip invented by Piab’s founder, Peter Tell. He explains “The purpose was to create a very small footprint multistage vacuum pump that was possible to configure to the correct performance. One key thing with this pump was that a customer could use the Chip only and integrate it into the design for an even more compact and lightweight installation.”
It was also unique at that time in that it was made as a multiple, allowing customers to easily stack several Chip pumps together to create the vacuum power needed.
Made in one piece it integrates several functions. Due to two of its three nozzles glued separately into the housing the customer can chose between different nozzle characteristics to facilitate exactly the performance needed in a specific application, for instance high flow combined with low vacuum and low feed pressure. Therefore, and thanks to its high reliability one of first Chip pump applications was in medical technology.
Accordingly, this mini pump is still today the preferred ejector of the respective German medical equipment manufacturer not only because of its easy integration but also because it can be adjusted very precisely and delivers continuously reproducible results.
It is essential for the trouble-free operation of bronchial secretion aspirators in everyday clinical practice that it is easy to use and that it works reliably and reproducibly. Since the compressed air is generated with pure oxygen, the fat and oil-free delivery is particularly important.
The Chip ejector X10L reaches a maximum vacuum of -93 kPa and is particularly finely controllable due to its so-called “butterfly valves”, which regulate the air flow between the different stages of the ejector. It has a suction power of up to 50 liters per minute at an operating pressure of 5.5 bar.
Today the housing of the Chip pump is produced by injection moulding while the assembly is done mainly in an automated process with a glue and screwdriving robot.