Compressed-air treatment equipment importer Artic Driers has, in partnership with nongovernmental organisation Save-P, developed locally manufactured, low-dewpoint, heatless air dryers to combat Covid-19.
These dryers were developed to be issued free of charge to hospitals and clinics where breathing air in Covid-19 wards is required.
“Heatless air driers are not a new technology. They were developed in the 1960s, in the US. They provide a simple solution for generating very high-quality compressed air with dewpoint as low as -70 °C. This air quality is suitable for use in labs and theatres, as well as for Covid-19 breathing air systems, among many other applications,” says Artic Driers CEO Allen Cockfield.
With the financial ramifications of the pandemic on the global economy, Artic Driers provided designs for the air dryers as a free issue, pro bono project.
This unit provides a clean, compressed air and oxygen mix for patients through a continuous positive airway pressure mixing regulator unit. Each unit can produce enough breathing air for 300 patients.
“Artic Driers has built at least 13 low-dewpoint, air-drying units for clients and to keep on hand, all for Covid-19 use. These vary from units with a capacity of as high as 23 m3/min to as low as 3 m3/min. One of the major recipients is Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto, Gauteng, which received the largest number of units for the Covid-19 emergency ward extensions, which is nearing completion,” explains Cockfield.
Further, Artic Driers has produced many local heatless air driers in a variety of sizes for the past five years.
“During the initial Level 5 lockdown, we developed and finalised the designs for the entire South African series of air dryers. All the dryers have designs that simplify their construction and operation making them ideal for use in South Africa and sub-Saharan Africa.”
While there were few challenges regarding the distribution and supply of the air drier units, Cockfield notes that the initial two months of the Level 5 lockdown was the greatest challenge.
However, owing to many of the company’s clients being blue chip-listed, which refers to well-established, stable and well-recognised corporations, cash flow shortages were minimised or funded by in-house resources.
“The cost of clean, dry compressed air for the medical industry has always been high, but with the launch of the South African series of driers, -40 °C and even
-70 °C compressed air is now available at a reasonable price and with very fast lead times”.
He adds that, for smaller-sized driers, the company holds stock in pairs purely for the medical industry, with general industry also benefiting from “a product designed in Africa for Africa”.
“We expect to be a South African Health Products Regulatory Authority-approved supplier in the next month, with ISO 9000 systems also being implemented,” concludes Cockfield.