Engineers from across Ireland have come together to deliver healthcare solutions and devise new medical innovations in response to the global COVID- 19 pandemic.
Today, Engineers Ireland, the professional membership body for engineers in Ireland, highlighted the innovation, creativity and critical skills which engineers in Ireland have utilised in this global pandemic.
As the global demand for ventilators increases, Galway-based Medtronic has increased ventilator production by more than 40 percent to date and is on track to more than double its capacity to manufacture and supply ventilators in response to the urgent needs of patients and healthcare systems across the globe confronting COVID-19.
Ventilator demand has significantly increased in light of COVID-19 and to address global shortages, new communities of engineers and medical device specialists are also working together, albeit remotely, to assist with ventilator production.
Colin Keogh, Mechanical Engineer and Co-Founder of the Open Source Ventilator Ireland project is leading an international community of engineers, designers and medical professionals who are working together to develop a low-cost ventilator. In collaboration with fellow founders Conall Laverty and David Pollard, the team is focused on developing a Field Emergency Ventilator in partnership with the Irish Health Service and will also look to address additional COVID- 19 challenges as they arise from frontline healthcare workers.
John Wallace, who runs specialist engineering firm IDS Solutions based in Co. Clare, has also assembled a team of engineers and medical professionals to develop a prototype ventilator that could be designed and built within weeks. The aptly named Covid Response Team is drawing on expertise from mechanical and electronic engineering, medical device specialists, and anaesthetists to come up with a design that can be easily adapted.
Biomedical engineers and founders of MedScan3D, James Wall and Jacqui O'Connor have also offered a non-profit service to hospitals to create 3D-printed healthcare parts should supplies run low. Speaking with RTÉ, James Wall commented that the company could print eight small respirator parts in 70 minutes, equating to 164 a day or 1100 in a week. He said the company was at the ready if supplies run short.
Randox, the Co Antrim based health diagnostics company, has developed quick and cost-effective testing kits for COVID-19. This is the only test in the world that can identify the lethal strain and differentiate between other non-lethal variants with the same symptoms.
On the ground, the Irish Defence Forces Corps of Engineers are providing essential services and supports to the HSE at COVID-19 testing facilities, including the new Dublin City facility alongside the Irish Naval Service ship at the Samuel Beckett bridge.
Aquila Bioscience, an Irish company based at NUI Galway, has also collaborated with the Irish Defence Forces to provide soldiers with its latest product, the Anti-Bioagent Wipe (ABwipeTM).
Aquila Bioscience and the Irish Defence Forces have been collaborating on this technology for more than four years, with the Ordnance Corps actively engaged in the concept and product trials. ABwipeTM technology serves as a decontamination wipe for first-responders, healthcare workers and for civilians to significantly reduce and prevent pathogen transmission from person-to-person and therefore reducing the spread, panic and impact of the pathogen, as is the case with coronavirus COVID-19.
In efforts to limit the potential spread of COVID-19 in hospitals, Irish start-up Akara Robotics has rapidly developed a new robot to keep hospitals clean. Dr. Conor McGinn and his team of engineers at Akara Robotics are the innovators behind Stevie the Robot, a socially assistive robot designed to interact with people in care homes. Now, the Robotics team has added a new robot, Violet to their list of achievements. Violet uses UVC light, a clinically proven technology for killing viruses, bacteria and harmful germs and has a range of safety features that allow it to be deployed in high-traffic areas. Violet has recently been tested in a healthcare environment and could soon be ready for deployment.
Chinese technology company Huawei has said it will send a shipment of medical equipment to Ireland, in which it has operated for over 15 years, as part of its Covid-19 relief efforts. Huawei will donate personal protective equipment to help those working on the frontline, and ICT solutions which could help with video conferencing needs.
Akkure, an Irish digital health startup, has also recently unveiled the COVIDMedBot, an online personalised risk assessment and guideline tool for use during the COVID-19 pandemic. Free to use, the COVIDMedBot provides personalised risk assessment and guidelines, in line with the HSE recommendations and leveraging advice from the WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regarding the COVID-19 virus. The tool is available online and the assessment can be completed in 90 seconds. The public can turn to the COVIDMedBot for the latest individualised advice on the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, enabling quick risk assessment in an uncertain environment.
Congratulating engineering organisations and engineers who are supporting healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, Caroline Spillane, Director General of Engineers Ireland, said: “Irish engineers are at the forefront of this pandemic as they rapidly respond to the needs of society through the delivery and development of medical supplies and new innovations to support healthcare workers and wider society.
“From ramping up production of ventilators to producing COVID-19 testing kits and testing centres, I would like to thank our engineering employers for delivering these crucial products to support healthcare workers as they work tirelessly to treat patients. I would also like to congratulate each of the engineering communities and innovators who have come together to innovate and find solutions which will hopefully assist with the treatment and mitigation of COVID-19 in the coming weeks and months”.