1230: Companies urged to prioritise FLT training

As forklift truck drivers are classified as key workers, the Association of Industrial Truck Trainers (AITT) and RTITB (formerly the Road Transport Industry Training Board) have lobbied for clarification and support from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to provide defined guidance on training during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Adam Smith, Managing Director of AITT explained: “Forklift operator training is required by law and employers have a legal obligation to ensure the safety of their staff. During this time, those who supply essential items such as food and medical resources are classed as critical workers, so it is extremely important that they receive appropriate training on the equipment they are required to use.

“Conversion training may also be necessary where workers are having to change roles or work with different equipment, as businesses adapt ways of working to new circumstances. Employers must be vigilant and ensure that operators are not complacent on site. Goods are crucial right now and companies cannot risk damage and downtime caused by reckless operation.”

In response, the HSE has released a statement containing guidance on training for rider-operated lift trucks. The full statement can be found at www.hse.gov.uk or via www.AITT.co.uk/news.

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1140: Protolabs begins 3D-printing ventilator valves

The world’s fastest digital manufacturer of prototypes and low-volume production parts is using its 3D printing, CNC machining and injection moulding expertise to support the frontline fight against Covid-19.

Protolabs, which employs over 450 people at its European headquarters in Telford, has played a key role in supporting Italian engineers in the conversion of ‘Easybreath’ snorkelling equipment into ventilator masks.

3D printed ‘Charlotte’ valves are being rapidly produced and shipped direct to its customer Isinnova, who are producing kits that can be used to create a non-invasive ventilator mask that will help save lives.

The company is also urgently working with a highly multiplexed molecular diagnostics specialist to produce a series of plastic cassettes that will help house a critical medical solution used in testing for Covid-19.

AusDiagnostics approached Protolabs to see if it could injection mould 500 sample parts, a challenge that was immediately picked up by the Shropshire-based on-demand manufacturer. The first CAD drawings were not fit for manufacture so were quickly updated and the right material specified, with production now underway with parts set to shipped by 9 April.

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1115: Make UK comments on ventilator consortium

Commenting on the news that a consortium of UK companies is to begin production of much-needed ventilators (see 1015), Stephen Phipson, chief executive of Make UK, said: “Today’s announcement highlights the talent and determination in Britain’s world-leading manufacturing sector, and shows the need to support the sector all year round to ensure national resilience in tough times.

“I thank those advanced manufacturing businesses and skilled workers rising to the challenge and redirecting their efforts to saving lives and protecting the NHS.

“These companies, uniting from across the automotive, aerospace and medical industries to ramp up ventilator production, really are the best of British business.”

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1015: Industry consortium sets ventilator target

A group of UK industrial, technology and engineering businesses from across the aerospace, automotive and medical sectors, has come together to produce medical ventilators for the UK.

The VentilatorChallengeUK Consortium is led by Dick Elsy, CEO of High Value Manufacturing Catapult, and counts companies including GKN, Thales and Microsoft amongst its members.

The consortium has evaluated all requirements to design, manufacture, assemble and test components, as well as finished medical ventilators. Companies in the consortium have now received formal orders from the Government in excess of 10,000 units.

The consortium will now accelerate production of an agreed new design, based on existing technologies, which can be assembled from materials and parts in current production. The device combines existing proven clinical equipment and is the clinicians’ first choice for the RMVS. The regulator has been involved throughout and the consortium anticipates a straightforward and very prompt regulatory sign off after the final audit.

The consortium is now working at full speed to take the necessary steps in order to increase production of this design. Production will begin this week.

Dick Elsy, the High Value Manufacturing Catapult’s chief executive, said: “This consortium brings together some of the most innovative companies in the world. Every day, their highly-skilled staff collaborate to create solutions that help millions of people, and this project is no different. They are working together with incredible determination and energy to scale up production of much-needed ventilators and combat a virus that is affecting people in many countries. I am confident this consortium has the skills and tools to make a difference and save lives.”

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0900: UCL and Mercedes F1 develop breathing aids

A breathing aid that can help keep Covid-19 patients out of intensive care, adapted by mechanical engineers at University College London, working with Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (Mercedes-AMG HPP), has been approved for use in the NHS.

The breathing aid, known as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), has been used extensively in hospitals in Italy and China to help Covid-19 patients with serious lung infections to breathe more easily, when oxygen alone is insufficient.

Since 18 March, engineers and clinicians have been working round the clock at UCL’s engineering hub MechSpace to reverse engineer a device that can be produced rapidly by the thousands. This has now been recommended for use by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

This breathing aid was produced within a rapid timeframe – it took fewer than 100 hours from the initial meeting to production of the first device. One hundred devices are to be delivered to UCLH for clinical trials, with rapid roll-out to hospitals around the country ahead of the predicted surge in Covid-19 hospital admissions.

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0830: JCB joins coronavirus fight

JCB is poised to re-start production at a factory closed as a result of the Coronavirus crisis in order to join the national effort to manufacture ventilators. Following a call from government earlier in the month, JCB is ready to restart production at its factory in Uttoxeter, which has been closed for nearly two weeks as a result of the Coronavirus crisis. But instead of making cabs for JCB diggers, the plant is being mobilised to make special steel housings for a brand new design of ventilator from Dyson. A minimum of 10,000 of the JCB housings are earmarked for manufacture once Dyson receives regulatory approval for its design.