File picture: IANS
File picture: IANS

British ventilator consortium aims to produce 1 500 units per week

By Kate Holton Time of article published Apr 2, 2020

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London - A consortium of British engineers, aerospace and Formula One companies are hoping to produce at least 1,500 ventilators a week within a matter of weeks, it said on Thursday.

Companies including Airbus, Ford, Rolls-Royce and BAE have come together with seven Formula One teams to ramp up production of two existing ventilators made by Penlon and Smiths Group in Britain.

The companies answered a call by Prime Minister Boris Johnson for industry to help build life-saving equipment ahead of the peak of the coronavirus outbreak. 

This comes as seven of the 10 Formula One teams have joined forces with leading aerospace and engineering companies to ramp up production of ventilators while Mercedes has also worked with medics and academics to produce an alternative breathing aid.

Normally obsessed with improving the performance of cars that race at more than 200 miles per hour, the teams are now stripping back life-saving devices and using computer simulation to test whether more simplified models can be mass produced.

The seven have bases in the "Motorsport Valley" area around Silverstone, a one-time World War Two airfield that switched, along with its neighbouring engineers, into racing to host the first world championship grand prix in 1950.

"F1 teams are used to operating at pace, they move quickly, within a safety remit, and have the capacity and the capability to work on both the R&D and the assembly," one person familiar with the setup said.

McLaren is also making components, procuring parts and designing bespoke trolleys for the ventilators.

Their involvement reflects the broader role Formula One teams have played in Britain for decades, using their strong record for design innovation to support British Olympic teams including the world-beating rowing and cycling squads.

It has also used race simulation to help Heathrow Airport improve movements on the ground while the Williams team has developed systems to keep supermarket refrigerators cold and newborn babies safe during emergency transportation.

Britain has long been at the forefront of Formula One through drivers Hamilton, Jackie Stewart, Jim Clark and Graham Hill. The F1 season has been suspended due to the pandemic.

"It's great to see Mercedes and other F1 teams answering the call in these challenging times," Hamilton said on Twitter. "Great job guys."


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