Mercedes HPP helps develop and manufacture breathing aid

30 March 2020

Mercedes High Performance Powertrains has produced engines that have won eight constructors’ championships and 10 drivers’ championships in Formula 1, and as part of ‘Project Pitlane’ they’re now helping turn the tide in the battle against coronavirus.

A breathing aid developed by engineers at Mercedes HPP, engineers at University College London (UCL) and clinicians at UCL Hospital has now been approved for use by the UK’s National Health Service in the battle against coronavirus.

This respiratory device, the ‘Continuous Positive Airway Pressure’ (CPAP), is a breathing aid that helps coronavirus patients with serious lung infections to breathe and avoid having to use ‘invasive mechanical ventilation’ – breathing devices that involve tubes through the skin or mouth. However, there aren’t currently enough CPAP devices in UK hospitals to cope with the surge in patients suffering from coronavirus.

The engineers and clinicians worked since 18 March at UCL’s engineering hub to reverse-engineer an existing CPAP device used in Italian and Chinese hospitals to be mass-produced. Now, the UK regulatory board has recommended it for use.

According to UCL, “It took fewer than 100 hours from the initial meeting to production of the first device.” Clinical trials have begun at UCL and a roll-out is coming soon.

Andy Cowell, Mercedes HPP’s managing director, said: “The Formula 1 community has shown an impressive response to the call for support, coming together in the ‘Project Pitlane’ collective to support the national need at this time across a number of different projects.

“We have been proud to put our resources at the service of UCL to deliver the CPAP project to the highest standards and in the fastest possible timeframe.”

Professor Tim Baker of UCL’s Mechanical Engineering department lauded the partnership. He said: “Given the urgent need, we are thankful that we were able to reduce a process that could take years down to a matter of days.

“From being given the brief, we worked all hours of the day, disassembling and analysing an off-patent device. Using computer simulations, we improved the device further to create a state-of-the-art version suited to mass production.

“We were privileged to be able to call on the capability of Formula 1 – a collaboration made possible by the close links between UCL Mechanical Engineering and HPP.”

UCL’s Vice Provost, Health, Professor David Lomas, added that the collaboration “shows what can be done when universities, industry and hospitals join forces for the national good.”

The other six UK-based F1 teams in Project Pitlane are also working to aid the UK’s efforts to treat patients suffering from coronavirus. Those teams are Red Bull, Racing Point, Haas, McLaren, Renault and Williams.



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