Denel ventilator prototype undergoing testing


Over a month ago, Denel said it would put expertise and resources into the design, development and manufacture of ventilators. This, according to the cash-strapped defence and technology conglomerate, has now “reached a critical stage”.

Denel is co-ordinating a four-strong government agency and institute team along with specialist private sector companies to make the local ventilator a reality. The initiative is called Project Sabela (we are heeding the call). Denel Dynamics, whose normal business is the design and production of precision-guided weapon systems and unmanned aerial vehicles, switched focus to the healthcare field for the ventilator project.

In a parallel initiative, Denel Land Systems (DLS) joined forces with a leading university, engineering companies and a manufacturer of domestic appliances to produce a full-function ventilator. It will be made from easy to source materials, according to a Denel statement.

“The aim of the project lead by Denel Dynamics is to design, develop and manufacture a low-cost, fit-for-purpose ventilator utilising the skills and expertise of South African engineers, scientists, researchers and technicians.

“We are optimistic about producing a low-cost, entry-level ventilator for the medical profession as the number of coronavirus patients increase and response levels ramp up in the coming weeks,” Denel chief executive Danie du Toit said.

Solutions from around the world were considered by the Sabela team with an own design device getting the nod of approval.

A prototype of the bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP) device was built using readily available, off-the-shelf hardware. This followed extensive consultation with experts and reviews against applicable standards. The prototype is undergoing further testing and evaluation from which a second design will emerge to meet the requisite criteria for medical ventilators and can be manufactured locally on a large scale, the statement said.

DLS is part of a team led by Cambridge University’s Whittle Laboratory, Cambridge Aerothermal, Beko PLC, Prodrive UK and Defy Appliances to develop a low-cost ventilator – the OVSI – for use by patients needing ventilation at field hospitals, during transport as well as in normal hospitals and intensive care units (ICUs).