Scottish engineer only UK finalist in ventilator design contest to help tackle Covid-19
He is one of just seven finalists from more than 200 entries from 40-plus countries – and the only one shortlisted to be based outside north or south America – in the eight-week challenge. He was the only individual entrant to reach the finals and is up against teams from the likes of Stanford University.
CoVent-19 is described as an open innovation grand challenge for engineers, innovators, designers and makers. The Innovate2Ventilate brief was to develop low-cost, readily deployable mechanical ventilators for use around the world.
If Hunter with his newly-formed Team Armadilla – which will comprise a small group of design and manufacturing experts employed at his firm – win, the prototype will be made by partners. Once manufactured, his Core Vent product would be available for a fraction of the cost of current ventilators, he said.
It comes after Armadilla last month won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the Innovation category for its Hotelier Pod, a luxury outdoor living accommodation unit that incorporates high-tech hardware and software developed in-house.
The firm is on lockdown, so Hunter, who is also head of design and development at the firm, decided to enter the CoVent 19 Challenge. Working on his own, and over a period of just three weeks, he developed a prototype and 3D models for his Core Vent product.
For the last few years he has, in his spare time, been developing a new concept for speciality coffee machines and, as the coronavirus pandemic worsened, realised this design could be adapted for a ventilator.
Core Vent takes an alternative approach to a traditional “bellow” ventilator system and would not use existing component supplies. It uses a novel concept to maintain positive end-expiratory pressure through a single, simplified system.
Hunter – who says he has always enjoyed “tinkering and inventing” – is now working on the next stage of the challenge to refine the ventilator and submit working prototypes by 21 June, with the winning design being announced shortly thereafter.
He said: “When I heard about the CoVent-19 Challenge I decided I had to enter to try to help the growing number of Covid-19 sufferers across the world. The pandemic is having devastating effects on people and communities everywhere and one of the best ways to treat sufferers is by ensuing there are enough effective and affordable ventilators available, especially in developing countries that don’t have many resources.
“I’m still taking in the news that I’ve reached the finals of the challenge up against such strong international competition. I’m pleased to have been able to use my design skills and experience in such a worthwhile way while my own family business, Armadilla, is in lockdown and to be able to involve colleagues in this fast-moving challenge.
“I studied mechanical engineering and product design and have always enjoyed tinkering and inventing. I’m fortunate to have Armadilla’s facilities to develop concepts and flesh out ideas, such as my concept for a new ventilator. Everything we do at Armadilla is creative and innovative; we thrive on disruptive innovation.”
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