A trio of manufacturers has used 3D printing technology to adapt full-face snorkelling masks for use as ventilator masks.
The group comprises Heap & Partners, Mercedes-Benz and Airbus, and is a response to calls from doctors at the Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust for ventilation equipment during the coronavirus pandemic.
The manufacturers used their 3D printers to produce thousands of valves – called Charlotte valves – which adapt snorkelling masks into ventilator masks.
Ventilators allow patients with COVID-19, a respiratory illness which attacks the lungs, to breathe. Ventilator masks are used at a pre-intubation stage, so can be used as a step before invasive treatment.
Dr Geeta Aggarwal, an anaesthetist at the foundation, said: “Coronavirus has created unprecedented challenges for clinicians and patients across the NHS.
“Now more than ever before we are seeing why embracing technological innovation to improve patient care is so important.
“This is the perfect example of industry moving at pace to support the NHS in very challenging times.”
The adapted masks have been rolled out to the Guildford-based hospital, and Heap & Partners is moving production to ‘injection moulding’ which would “rapidly increase the scale and pace of delivery” of the products. This technique injects molten material into moulding to create the product.
The latest news on ventilators
News of ventilator design and production has been frequent of late, after the health secretary Matt Hancock set a target of procuring 18,000 ventilators last month.
While Dyson was quick to unveil its CoVent design, the model has not yet been approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
However, the MHRA has recently approved a design from a consortium of engineering groups, known as Ventilator Challenge UK. The group is made of manufacturers such as Rolls-Royce and Airbus. The government has placed a provisional order of 5,000 Penlon ES02 devices.
Meanwhile, Mercedes F1 collaborated with UCL and its associated hospital UCLH, on a breathing aid which has been rolled out to help coronavirus patients breathe more easily at a non-invasive stage.