12th Apr, 2021

Worcestershire firm switches from vacuums to ventilators for COVID-19 fight

Rob George 26th Mar, 2020 Updated: 26th Mar, 2020

“AT FIRST I thought it was a hoax – being asked if I could assist in making up to 30,000 medical ventilators in as little as two weeks.”​

While Nick Grey’s reaction to being asked to join the fight against Covid-19 may not have been serious, the owner of Worcester-based Gtech has now taken to the frontline in the coronavirus crisis.​

The Spetchley firm has moved from vacuums to ventilators, devoting all of their working hours to manufacturing the life-saving equipment in a matter of days.​

Health Secretary Matt Hancock made a public plea for help after it became apparent the UK would not have enough ventilators to cope with the expected numbers of patients with serious COVID-19 symptoms.​

Mr Grey began working on the project after being contacted by Gareth Rhys Williams, Government Chief Commercial Officer in the early hours of last Sunday morning (March 15).​

“When I realised that this was a genuine need I felt compelled to help,” he said.​

Nick spent Sunday learning how ventilators worked and on Monday tasked Gtech’s engineering and model making team to tackle the challenge. He also bought a ventilator off eBay and arranged for it to be collected first thing Monday morning.​

There were quite a lot of problems; oxygen is a very reactive gas, which rules out many motors and electrical devices. Normal air operated cylinders can only run on air, not pure oxygen so they could not be used. ​

The breakthrough was to repurpose an everyday syringe into an oxygen-powered ram. A valve directs oxygen into the syringe which squeezes a self-inflating air container delivering 400ml of air directly to the patients’ lungs. A second syringe acts as a timer and once the ‘breath’ has been delivered resets the ram ready for the next cycle.​

In order to save and conserve oxygen, the waste gas is fed into a reservoir to enrich the patients’ air supply.The ventilator is driven and controlled entirely from the hospital oxygen supply without the need for electricity. ​

The number of cycles per minute, volume of air delivered, and the pressure of the air can all be controlled according to patient’s needs.​

“We designed the ventilator entirely from parts which can readily be made from stock materials or bought off-the-shelf. This means if government approves and wants Gtech ventilators they can be made by almost any engineering and manufacturing company,” he said.​

“Gtech could produce around 100 per day within a week or two providing we could find steel fabrication and CNC machining companies to help us make some of the parts”. ​

Gtech plan to submit their designs to government for assessment.​

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