Mercedes engineered respiratory device approved for use in Britain’s NHS

Not content to lead the way on track, the Mercedes Formula One team is now leading the fight against the coronavirus pandemic away from the circuit.

In little over a week, engineers at Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (Mercedes-AMG HPP) in conjunction with engineers and clinicians at University College London (UCL), have developed a breathing apparatus to help patients suffering from the effects of COVID-19.

Known as known as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), the breathing apparatus has now been approved for use by the UK’s National Health Service and, if trials are successful, it could go into production imminently with as many as 1000 units produced per day.

The key benefit to patients with advanced symptoms using the device is that it allows sufferers to breath normally without the need for ‘invasive mechanical ventilation’ that requires sedation and tubes placed into the patient’s trachea. As such, patients using the device would be able to do so in the comfort of their own homes rather than intensive care.

The Continuous Positive Airway Pressure device will allow the patient mobile treatment without the need for intensive care ©MercedesF1

“The Formula One 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,” commented Andy Cowell, Managing Director of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains “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.”

This ‘fastest possible timeframe’ that Cowell refers to saw the creation of the regulator from concept to reality in a matter of days, the first device produced in less than 100 hours at UCL’s engineering hub ‘MechSpace’.

“This breakthrough has the potential to save many lives and allow our frontline NHS staff to keep patients off ventilators. I would like to pay tribute to the incredible team of engineers and clinicians at UCL, HPP and UCLH, for working round-the-clock to develop this new prototype,” added Professor David Lomas (UCL Vice Provost Health). “It is, quite simply, a wonderful achievement to have gone from first meeting to regulator approval in just ten days. It shows what can be done when universities, industry and hospitals join forces for the national good.”

The CPAP device was developed in conjunction with engineers and clinicians at University College London ©MercedesF1

As reported last week, it is not just Mercedes that has been involved in the fight against coronavirus, with other British-based F1 teams including McLaren, Red Bull Racing, Racing Point, Williams, Renault and HAAS joining the ‘Project Pitlane’ initiative to help design and manufacture similar devices.

“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,” said Professor Tim Baker (UCL Mechanical Engineering) said. “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 One – a collaboration made possible by the close links between UCL Mechanical Engineering and HPP.”

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.