Coronavirus: subsea firms harnessing expertise to tackle Covid-19

The UK’s underwater engineering industry is exploring ways to help support the national effort to tackle the coronavirus pandemic – with firms focusing on ventilators and 3D printing.

JFD Global’s ventilator system. Picture: contributed.
JFD Global’s ventilator system. Picture: contributed.

Industry body Subsea UK has pointed out that underwater engineering companies have the relevant products and manufacturing expertise, particularly in breathing apparatus and life support equipment, valves, and control systems, to “answer the call for help” from the UK and Scottish governments.

Indeed, the organisation said one of its members, JFD Global, has already stepped up to develop and bring to market a “revolutionary” respiratory ventilator.

The latter is a specialist in the development of breathing apparatus and life support equipment. MD Giovanni Corbetta said: “What we have developed is a highly flexible, modular ventilator that is safe, efficient and can be manufactured and deployed rapidly across the globe.”

Neil Gordon highlights the specific economic challenges facing the sector. Picture: Ross Johnston/Newsline Media.

Other companies are exploring how standard diving equipment could be adapted to meet current medical needs and providing drive systems for medical equipment.

Viewport3, an Aberdeen-based specialist in 3D scanning for the subsea industry, has been focusing on creating a template for adaptors to connect equipment from the diving or C-PAP (continuous positive airway pressure) industries to be used as a moderate form of ventilation or respiration.

Easy to replicate

Richard Drennan, Viewport3 director, said the firm has turned its focus to creating a suitable design and post-print workflow that could be easily replicated by others.

He added that fused deposition modelling 3D printers are what 99 per cent of small companies or hobbyists will have, “so a clear ready-to-use design and post-print instructions could mean the capability exists to print hundreds of adaptors up and down the UK, serving local care providers”.

Maxon, a Swiss developer and manufacturer of drive systems used in various industries, is a long-time partner of top medical technology firms worldwide. Its products are already used in medical devices such as ventilators, respirators, protection masks and lab automation.

MD William Mason said: “We have launched a ‘medical fast track’ process… Our group management team reviews each request in real-time and matches the need with a solution, prioritising manufacturing efforts globally to ensure product production and shipment to our medical essential customers is done rapidly.”

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Subsea UK, which represents the UK’s £7.8 billion subsea industry, is looking at how other firms could help combat Covid-19 but also on the impact of the pandemic and the collapse in oil price on its 300 member companies.

Chief executive Neil Gordon said: “We will continue to work with the industry and government to identify areas in which our skills and expertise can be best put to use in tackling the pandemic.

“We’ve also been working closely with organisations, such as OGUK and the OGA, to inform government of the specific economic challenges facing the sector and to seek clarity for subsea businesses on the measures in place to support them and on the guidance for them in continuing with critical operations.”

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