Mercedes make breathing device designs public

Designs for the breathing aid developed by Mercedes F1 in collaboration with engineers and health workers at UCL are to be made freely available for use in the fight against coronavirus.

The UCL-Ventura is a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) device helps patients with respiratory issues, meaning they don’t need to be taken into intensive care.

The government has ordered 10000 of the devices which are being produced at Mercedes’ High-Performance Powertrain Plant in Brixworth, at a maximum rate of 1000 per day, with latest figures showing the UK has over 50000 confirmed cases of COVID-19. 

Professor David Lomas (UCL Vice Provost Health) said: “These life-saving devices will provide vital support to the NHS in coming weeks, helping to keep patients off ventilators and reducing demand on intensive care beds and staff.

We believe they can also make a real difference around the world in supporting healthcare systems preparing for COVID-19.”

M231628 Project Pitlane - CPAP imagery from UCL
© James Tye/UCL

UK hospitals are facing a shortage of CPAP devices, which proved effective in Italy and China at treating patients with respiratory issues.

UCL-Ventura was developed in less than 100 hours, with a Mark II version recently approved by the MHRA which reduces oxygen consumption for the user by 70%, compared to the first design. 

The devices are being produced by 40 machines that would usually make pistons and turbochargers for Mercedes engines, which are set to be used by three F1 teams this season.

Following today’s news though, any manufacturer can access the plans free of charge, which will also provide information on materials, tools and kit needed, plus fabrication time.

The CPAP works by forcing air and oxygen into the nose and mouth at a constant pressure, ensuring the airways remain open and increasing the oxygen that enters the bloodstream.

Andy Cowell, Managing Director of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains, said: “Since the project was announced, we have received an incredible number of enquiries about the CPAP device from around the world. Making the design and manufacturing specifications openly available will allow companies around the world to produce these devices at speed and at scale to support the global response to Covid-19.”

Meanwhile Professor Michael Arthur, UCL President & Provost said: “This demonstrates what extraordinary things can be achieved when universities, hospitals and industry work together for the national good. These devices, which can play a vital role in keeping patients out of intensive care, have been produced in just a couple of weeks as a result of the close collaboration between UCL, UCLH and HPP.

Professor Rebecca Shipley (UCL Mechanical Engineering) and Professor Mervyn Singer (UCL Medicine), who helped develop the device. Photographer: James Tye / UCL
© James Tye/UCL