Seven Formula 1 teams have made significant progress in acting on the British government’s call for assistance with the manufacture of medical devices, such as ventilators, to make up for the current shortfalls in equipment used to treat patients suffering from the coronavirus (COVID-19).
“Project Pitlane” (the working name for this collaboration) draws from the F1 teams’ expertise in designing and producing high-quality components with a variety of materials to exacting specifications within a very short period of time. They have been doing this in three different ways by (i) reverse engineering medical devices used currently, (ii) helping to ramp up production of pre-designed ventilators, and (iii) the design and construction of a new device for clinical certification ahead of its distribution and use on the frontline of the NHS.
One team working in conjunction with University College London (UCL) has so far managed to reverse engineer breathing equipment named “Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)” ventilators. By utilising their engine plant, technology centre, and the tools usually used to make pistons and turbochargers, they are now manufacturing around 1,000 CPAP ventilators each day. The ‘blueprint’ for these ventilators has also been made public so that other organisations around the world can examine it, learn from it, and make it (or a similar device) themselves.
UCL’s Vice Provost Health, Professor David Lomas, said: “These life-saving devices will provide vital support to the NHS in coming weeks, helping to keep patients off ventilators and reducing demand on intensive care beds and staff. It is a phenomenal achievement that they are arriving at hospitals only two weeks after the first prototype was built. It shows what can be done when universities, hospitals and industry work together for the national good.”
Project Pitlane is not the only automotive force for good in the current pandemic. As we have reported previously, Ford has joined the VentilatorChallengeUK Consortium of major industrial, technology and engineering businesses from across the aerospace, automotive and medical industries who have assembled to produce medical ventilators for the UK. They have now received orders for over 10,000 units from the British government and production can now accelerate on these Rapidly Manufactured Ventilator Systems as well as supporting another producer of medical ventilators to boost manufacture of a ventilator design which has full regulatory approval already.
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