Two divisions within State-owned defence company Denel have reached critical stages in the design and manufacture of medical ventilators needed to assist critically ill patients diagnosed with Covid-19.
The projects both fall under Project Sabela, which is being coordinated by Denel, in partnership with other State-owned entities, research bodies and specialist companies in the private sector.
The aim of the project led by Denel Dynamics is to design, develop and manufacture a low-cost, fit-for-purpose ventilator by using the skills and expertise of South African engineers, scientists, researchers and technicians.
Missile and precision-guided weapon systems developer Denel Dynamics has switched its focus to the production of medical ventilators to support patients who will be treated for the pandemic in public and private hospitals.
At the same time, land forces equipment developer Denel Land Systems has joined forces with Cambridge University’s Whittle Laboratory, Cambridge Aerothermal, Beko, Prodrive UK and Defy Appliances to develop a low-cost ventilator, the OVSI, that can be used by patients requiring ventilation at field hospitals, during transport, in normal hospitals and intensive care units. This full-function medical ventilator will be made from easy-to-source materials.
Thus far, Denel reports that the joint research team has evaluated a number of solutions proposed by companies across the world and eventually came up with its own design, a Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP) device. The company also states that the design and layout phases have been completed and simulation exercises to test the efficacy of the projects will start soon.
Denel group CEO Danie du Toit says considerable progress has been made in the design stage since Project Sabela was launched in early April. “We are optimistic about the potential to produce a low-cost, entry-level ventilator that can be used by the medical profession as the number of patients increases and the response levels are ramped up in the coming weeks.”
The Denel Dynamics team has built a prototype BiPAP ventilator from available, off-the-shelf hardware following an extensive period of consultation with experts and reviews against applicable standards. This prototype is now undergoing further testing and evaluation from which the second design will be made that will meet the requisite criteria for medical ventilators and can be manufactured at scale within South Africa, Denel group notes in a statement.
Further, other companies in the Denel group are also contributing towards the national response to the Covid-19 pandemic during the various lockdown alert level stages.
Denel Aeronautics is providing valuable technical support to the helicopter fleet of the South African Air Force (SAAF), which has been deployed in all nine provinces.
In this regard, SAAF Oryx transport helicopters are transporting critical medical and humanitarian supplies to communities on a daily basis and are also conducting surveillance operations.
Denel Aeronautics has already carried out critical repair work on the main gearboxes of two Oryx helicopters and the technical support teams are on standby around-the-clock to do maintenance, repairs and testing of equipment.
Similar technical support has been provided to the SAAF’s C-130 Hercules transport aircraft that are undergoing regular inspections, repairs and testing at Denel’s maintenance, repair, and overhaul facility at Air Force Base Waterkloof, near Pretoria.