UK PPE production & ventilator drive JCB, Dyson, Barbour, SME's etc.

An 'iron lung' ventilator works in the opposite way to a conventional ventilator, instead of blowing gases into the lungs, they apply a negative pressure to the chest causing air to be drawn into the lungs. Their advantage is that the patient doesn't need to be intubated and therefore sedated. that said the words, big, clunky and restrictive could also be used, there's a reason they were superceded many years ago by positive pressure ventilators.

Hands up though, I've never seen one in use, your question prompted a bit of reading. There seems to be an opinion that there value would lie with the treatment of chronic respiratory failure, there's a 2002 study here


From what I can tell, the people who are dying in ITU with Covid-19 are doing so quite rapidly.
Thank you. Hopefully we seem to be moving into a situation where the necessary capacity is being provided by more current technology.

The line of thought began when it seemed more a case of "we need stuff now!". The Both type seems to have been made of plywood in prototype and pressed metal in production neither of which would be adding to the bottlenecks that seem to apply to the positive pressure solutions.
 
Thanks.

It seems that GTech deliberately went for a "quick and dirty" simple version. Its not clear whether that was allowed for or not in the spec.
Well, according to that report, GTech knew that their “quick and dirty” solution didn’t meet the spec but pressed on regardless. A cynic might suggest that they had hoped to overcome the technical shortcomings through political pressure, however, that is not something I would comment on.
 
Thank you. Hopefully we seem to be moving into a situation where the necessary capacity is being provided by more current technology.

The line of thought began when it seemed more a case of "we need stuff now!". The Both type seems to have been made of plywood in prototype and pressed metal in production neither of which would be adding to the bottlenecks that seem to apply to the positive pressure solutions.
There's at least several issues to consider:

  • The ventilator should not put additional work load on the ICU staff. The shortages of staff are going to be at least as serious as the shortages of equipment, and a lot harder to increase the supply of.
  • It needs to be known to work right away. Most new designs of anything require time to work out bugs and improve the design. There isn't time for that now, whatever it is needs to work right away.
  • It should if possible be a design that is familiar to the existing staff. By "familiar" I don't necessarily mean identical in all respects, but the general way that it works should be similar enough that the staff can be brought up to speed with it quickly.
  • It needs to be safe. I saw a Youtube video of one which ran on oxygen pressure. Any time you are dealing with pure oxygen, or any gas mixture that has a high oxygen proportion, you have a serious fire risk that has to be taken carefully into account. A fire in an ICU could be more than a bit of a problem. Perhaps it won't be a problem in this particular design, but I wouldn't care to take a gamble on it.

Given the above, the approach which has the lowest risk of failure in the shortest period of time is to find ways to rapidly scale up production of something that is already known to work.
 

socialdespatch

War Hero
  • It needs to be safe. I saw a Youtube video of one which ran on oxygen pressure. Any time you are dealing with pure oxygen, or any gas mixture that has a high oxygen proportion, you have a serious fire risk that has to be taken carefully into account. A fire in an ICU could be more than a bit of a problem. Perhaps it won't be a problem in this particular design, but I wouldn't care to take a gamble on it.
Unless things have changed radically, ventilators are usually connected to high pressure O2 and Air lines. Some of the older ones I worked with had in-built air compressors meaning they could be operated from just an O2 line, but they were very much in the minority. The units have to be intrinsically safe and that should naturally be part of any design brief.

Oddly enough, we were always rather keen on the patients not smoking..
 
It needs to be safe. I saw a Youtube video of one which ran on oxygen pressure. Any time you are dealing with pure oxygen, or any gas mixture that has a high oxygen proportion, you have a serious fire risk that has to be taken carefully into account. A fire in an ICU could be more than a bit of a problem. Perhaps it won't be a problem in this particular design, but I wouldn't care to take a gamble on it.
Thats the Gtech one I think. Used the O2 to drive a repurposed syringe as a piston and then used the exhaust from that to oxygenate the patient.
 

potter

Old-Salt
A rather low key press announcement by some of the other companies involved in this, reflecting the "focusing on just getting the job done" attitude:


And with an identical press release:


Interesting to put that alongside the rather noisy press from Dyson, F1 companies et al. Right now, frankly the only thing that matters is to get sufficient working, usable and safe devices out to the hospitals in time to make a difference.
 

Yokel

LE
A rather low key press announcement by some of the other companies involved in this, reflecting the "focusing on just getting the job done" attitude:


And with an identical press release:


Interesting to put that alongside the rather noisy press from Dyson, F1 companies et al. Right now, frankly the only thing that matters is to get sufficient working, usable and safe devices out to the hospitals in time to make a difference.
Perhaps after the crisis list will be published (or released under the Freedom Of Information Act) of companies, large and small, that responded to the crisis. Hopefully that would include design and manufacture of ventilators and other equipment, subassemblies and components, and things like PPE or hygiene products.

Also universities and other institutions that have helped with product design, development, and testing, virology research, using mathematical modelling and computer simulation to predict the epidemic and other things.
 
Unless things have changed radically, ventilators are usually connected to high pressure O2 and Air lines. Some of the older ones I worked with had in-built air compressors meaning they could be operated from just an O2 line, but they were very much in the minority. The units have to be intrinsically safe and that should naturally be part of any design brief.

Oddly enough, we were always rather keen on the patients not smoking..
Yes I was aware that ventilators provide oxygen to the patient. However, they will have been carefully designed with safe handling of oxygen in mind by people who have many years of experience in handling medical oxygen. That will include taking in to account safe materials, flow rates, pressures, and everything else.

On the other hand, what sort of background in handling oxygen did the GTech engineers have, and what safety precautions were incorporated into the design? Perhaps it's fine and there would be no problems. On the other hand, imagine yourself as someone evaluating it for the government and with limited time and information. You can see where things can go wrong, so you put that folder to the bottom of the pile and look at proposals which are more conventional.

I haven't worked in the medical field, but I'm aware of the difficulties in handing oxygen from its use in industry. If you get oxygen flowing too fast over the wrong materials it's just as dangerous as flammable gases. It's not a material to take lightly.
 
Canada are putting time and energy into revisiting the "iron lung" concept, for a cheap and dirty approach.

That's the point I was making in another thread, I used as an analogy the Green Goddess fire engine, low-tech, basic 1950s technology but at a pinch could be used in a life or death situation in maybe 90% of the cases.

I was told that no, such old-style gear without all the electronic monitoring and hi-tech specifications would be inefficient given that, like so much technology of that era, it would require too much human intervention, thus tying up too many nurses and thus counter-productive.

I am simply not qualified to judge either way.
 
That's the point I was making in another thread, I used as an analogy the Green Goddess fire engine, low-tech, basic 1950s technology but at a pinch could be used in a life or death situation in maybe 90% of the cases.

I was told that no, such old-style gear without all the electronic monitoring and hi-tech specifications would be inefficient given that, like so much technology of that era, it would require too much human intervention, thus tying up too many nurses and thus counter-productive.

I am simply not qualified to judge either way.
I get what you are saying, and this falls into that concept, to be used should there be no conventional ventilators available. However, an iron lung is quite a cumbersome contraption that is not easy to hands on nurse with, and no aerosol protection. Best outcomes are being found to be the cases with early pulmonary support interventions, hence the accelerated production of CPAPs, none invasive, but still providing early ventilator support, giving better outcomes.
 
That's the point I was making in another thread, I used as an analogy the Green Goddess fire engine, low-tech, basic 1950s technology but at a pinch could be used in a life or death situation in maybe 90% of the cases.

I was told that no, such old-style gear without all the electronic monitoring and hi-tech specifications would be inefficient given that, like so much technology of that era, it would require too much human intervention, thus tying up too many nurses and thus counter-productive.

I am simply not qualified to judge either way.
I can’t believe there’s much in a ventilator that isn’t easily replicable in a modern product development facility. A ventilator isn’t that complex. There’s probably a heap of IP issues but that’s commercial faff that can be sorted.

The problem will be scaling to volume, but get enough small units making them and you achieve that. For me, that’s why the F1 capacity is so valuable. McLaren, Williams and Red Bull already have developed tech spin offs that prototype for all sorts of industries. As do Cosworth, Lotus, Prodrive and MSport to name but four.
No doubt there will be bureaucrats enforcing compliance rules that were written for the steady state.
 
Does it say what aspect it failed on?
The patient only got 60 minutes of air, then the battery ran out. They had to survive themselves for 3 hours before they could be switched back on
 
I can’t believe there’s much in a ventilator that isn’t easily replicable in a modern product development facility. A ventilator isn’t that complex. There’s probably a heap of IP issues but that’s commercial faff that can be sorted.

The problem will be scaling to volume, but get enough small units making them and you achieve that. For me, that’s why the F1 capacity is so valuable. McLaren, Williams and Red Bull already have developed tech spin offs that prototype for all sorts of industries. As do Cosworth, Lotus, Prodrive and MSport to name but four.
No doubt there will be bureaucrats enforcing compliance rules that were written for the steady state.
I suspect it's not the assembly that would be the problem so much as the parts that go into it. There will be tooling, moulds, etc. that can't be quickly duplicated. There will be a whole series of bottlenecks. The main solutions will likely revolve less around duplicating efforts than in removing the bottlenecks by finding ways of scaling up production at each supplier, or moving it to an alternate supplier. Some of this may be simplified by existing suppliers having their non-medical business at a standstill anyway.

The video at the start of the thread showed the solution to one problem, which is that of the enclosure. They had probably originally been made in a small metal shop which could not scale up production much beyond what they were already making. It's now been redesigned to be laser cut on equipment belonging to a large factory, who have also bodged together some simple bending tooling.

With final assembly the problems will be in training workers and QA. Again, doing this at a single site would be the easier and quicker solution. Existing workers would become supervisors and QA, new workers on loan from other companies would work under their supervision. Entire non-critical assemblies would be outsourced to single or a few suppliers and brought in for final assembly and inspection.
 

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
I suspect it's not the assembly that would be the problem so much as the parts that go into it. There will be tooling, moulds, etc. that can't be quickly duplicated. There will be a whole series of bottlenecks. The main solutions will likely revolve less around duplicating efforts than in removing the bottlenecks by finding ways of scaling up production at each supplier, or moving it to an alternate supplier. Some of this may be simplified by existing suppliers having their non-medical business at a standstill anyway.

The video at the start of the thread showed the solution to one problem, which is that of the enclosure. They had probably originally been made in a small metal shop which could not scale up production much beyond what they were already making. It's now been redesigned to be laser cut on equipment belonging to a large factory, who have also bodged together some simple bending tooling.

With final assembly the problems will be in training workers and QA. Again, doing this at a single site would be the easier and quicker solution. Existing workers would become supervisors and QA, new workers on loan from other companies would work under their supervision. Entire non-critical assemblies would be outsourced to single or a few suppliers and brought in for final assembly and inspection.
Duplication should be fairly swift with modern factories. QA is universal.
 
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