The Mercedes Formula 1 team’s powertrain division has teamed up with leading London-based university UCL to develop and build a breathing aid designed to keep Covid-19 patients out of intensive care, as the automotive industry ramps up efforts to help tackle the coronavirus.
The new Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device developed by the collaboration is set to begin clinical trials within the University College London Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, ahead of a planned rapid roll-out across the country.
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Meanwhile, the VentilatorChallengeUK Consortium, whose members include Ford and the seven UK-based F1 teams, has finalised designs for a range of Rapidly Manufactured Ventilator Systems (RMVS) that can be quickly produced. Companies in the consortium have now received formal orders from the UK government for in excess of 10,000 units.
UCL and Mercedes-F1 breathing aid
The CPAP device was developed by mechanical engineers from UCL and clinicians at UCLH, working with engineers from Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains in Brixworth.
The devices are similar to those used in hospitals in Italy and China to aid COVID-19 patients with lung infections to breathe more easily, and are used in situations where oxygen alone is insufficient. According to UCL, reports in Italy show that around half of patients given CPAP have avoided the need for mechanical ventilation.
The UCL, UCLH and Mercedes-AMG HPP team began work on the project on Wednesday 18 March, and produced the first device within 100 hours. It has now been recommended for use by the required regulator, and 100 devices will shortly be delivered to UCLH for clinical trials.
The device was reverse-engineered to enable it to be produced quickly, and UCL says that “rapid roll-out to hospitals around the country” will follow the trial.
Mercedes-AMG HPP boss Andy Cowell said: “We have been proud to put our resources at the service of UCL to deliver the CPAR project to the highest standards and in the fastest possible timeframe.”
Ventilator consortium to ramp up production
The VentilatorChallengeUK Consortium is made up for engineering and technology businesses from the automotive, aerospace and medical sectors, and was set up in response to a call from the UK government for assistance in the rapid production of ventilators.
The consortium members evaluated a range of designs, and has now agreed on a final version, which it says is based on existing technologies and proven clinical equipment, and can be assembled from materials and parts in current production.
Regulators have been involved with the process, and the consortium said it anticipates “a straightforward and very prompt” sign off, with production set to begin this week.
The complexity of producing medical equipment means that the devices are unlikely to be produced in the Ford engine plant or F1 workshops, but they will likely develop and supply specific parts to a firm in the consortium that already produces medical ventilators. They will also offer manufacturing support and assembly facilities to enable production to be scaled up.
The consortium includes Ford, along with the Haas, McLaren, Mercedes-AMG, Red Bull, Racing Point, Renault and Williams F1 teams. Non-automotive firms involved include Airbus, BAE, Dell, GKN, Microsoft, Siemens and Rolls-Royce.
The VentilatorChallengeUK consortium is just one group involving major car firms responding to the government’s call to help ramp up ventilator production as the COVID-19 outbreak approaches the anticipated peak.
The seven F1 teams are also involved in the Project Pitlane group, collaborating to develop ventilator technology that can be rapidly produced.
Mercedes-Benz offers its 3D printing expertise for production of medical equipment