UK Ventilator Challenge to start production of 10,000 units

Business news |
By Nick Flaherty

Two ventilator designs will be made by the consortium, which includes Airbus, BAe Systems, Ford, Ultra Electronics, Siemens Healthineers and multiple Formula 1 teams. 

The ParaPac Plus battery-powered ventilator from Smiths Medical is already used in ambulances and has a retail list price of $9,000. This uses a 3.6V lithium ion battery pack. Smiths is expecting to make 5,000 additional units, while the consortium delivers 5,000.

“The regulator has been involved throughout and we anticipate a straightforward and very prompt regulatory sign off after the final audit,” said the consortium in a statement. “The consortium is now working at full speed to take the necessary steps in order to increase production of this design. Production will begin this week,” it added.

The other 5,000 units will be a variant of the ES02 ventilator from Penlon in Abingdon, Oxfordshire (above). This is a more complex system used in operating theatres for patients under anaesthetic. This has been adapted to avoid using components that could be in short supply. As a result the consortium says it is confident that all the components needed are already in the UK supply chain. Companies such as Airbus have access to high reliability components such as capacitors for aerospace designs.

Penlon is also producing more systems outside the UK consortium. “We will of course continue to support other countries with their efforts to design, manufacture and assemble their own medical ventilators where we can,” it said.

Consortium member Renishaw is an expert in volume 3D printing of metal and plastic designs for medical systems to produce any physical components.

“Our role in VentilatorChallengeUK is to help ramp up production of a proven ventilator design, which has been supplied by a leading UK medical company to help those suffering from the virus. We will be providing integrated, tested sub-systems and components, which makes best use of our strong project management and engineering skills, while saving significant time during final assembly of the ventilators,” said a spokesperson for BAe Systems.

Established manufacturers such as Breas UK are already ramping production locally, while others including Medtronic in Ireland, Hamilton Medical in Switzerland, Dragerwerk in Germany, and Philips and GE globally are all doubling or quadrupling production. This follows consumer equipment maker Dyson announcing it was starting volume production of a ventilator designed by the Technology Partnership in Cambridge but this is still waiting on approvals. In the meantime Dyson has partnered with excavator maker JCB which says it can make 1000 ventilator casings a day. There are also several open source ventilator designs being developed around the UK by various university groups.

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