Denel ventilator prototype tests “better than expected”


Four months of intensive development has seen Denel Dynamics come up with a working ventilator for utilisation as part of the national effort to prevent coronavirus deaths.

In April, the State-owned defence and technology group said it was committing resources, including expertise, to design and develop ventilators for hospital use.

The ventilator effort was named Operation Sabela – we are heeding the call – as an indication of Denel’s commitment to the COVID-19 pandemic which has seen South Africa in lockdown for more than a third of the year.

When the ventilator project started, engineers from two Denel Group companies – Aeronautics and Dynamics – were assigned to it. They, alongside engineering and technical expertise from, among others, Armscor, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Eskom, investigated various ventilator designs with a view to producing a locally manufactured prototype ahead of production.

Denel Dynamics said this week it is developing a bi-level positive airway pressure assisted breathing unit (BiPAP ABU). This, after a number of prototypes determined by user requirements and component availability, were subjected to scrutiny.

Test results for the prototype are, according to Denel Dynamics, “better than expected as this is outside our core capability and a venture into the non-defence environment”.

The strategy going forward is to have engineering evaluation models ready next month (August) with production to follow soon after.

Industrialisation and production of the ventilators is dependent on all qualifying processes being successfully completed, including by regulatory authorities.

Denel Dynamics will use its facilities on the Denel campus in Irene, Centurion, to produce the ventilators when qualification is obtained, certification approved and availability/delivery of components secured.

Trained personnel from Denel Dynamics, where normal business is design and production of precision-guided weapon systems and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), will produce the ventilators and are looking at manufacturing more than 2 200 a month.