Subsea UK members adapting technologies for coronavirus containment

April 8, 2020
Subsea UK is responding to calls from the UK and Scottish governments for engineering solutions to ease the impact of the COVID-19 virus.

Offshore staff

ABERDEEN, UKSubsea UK is responding to calls from the UK and Scottish governments for engineering solutions to ease the impact of the COVID-19 virus.

The association claims its underwater engineering company members have the relevant products and manufacturing expertise, particularly in breathing apparatus and life support equipment, valves, and control systems.

JFD Global, for instance, has already been developing and bringing to market a new type of respiratory ventilator. 

Giovanni Corbetta, the company’s managing director, said: “We are using all our experience…in the development of breathing apparatus and life support equipment to come up with the best possible solution for patients, doctors, and healthcare systems.

“What we have developed is a highly flexible, modular ventilator that is safe, efficient and can be manufactured and deployed rapidly across the globe. Our aim is to take some of the intense pressure off ICU treatment facilities in the coming critical weeks and help save lives, as the virus approaches its peak in many countries.” 

Other Subsea UK companies are looking at adapting standard diving equipment to meet current medical needs and provide drive systems for medical equipment.  

Aberdeen-based 3D scanning specialist Viewport3 is creating a template for adaptors to connect equipment from the diving or C-PAP (continuous positive airway pressure) industries, for use as a moderate form of ventilation or respiration. 

Director Richard Drennan said: “We routinely deploy 3D printers offshore, allowing us to resolve challenges on location without having to ship equipment. We have now turned our focus to creating a suitable design and post-print workflow which could be easily replicated by others. 

“Each adaptor would require around four hours print time and 30 minutes of post-print assembly, meaning what we can produce using our own equipment is minimal.

“However, fused deposition modeling 3D printers are what 99% of small companies or hobbyists will have at hand, so a clear ready-to-use design and post-print instructions could mean the capability exists to print hundreds of adaptors up and down the UK, serving local care providers.” 

Swiss-owned but Berkshire-based Maxon, a manufacturer of drive systems used by various industries, has long experience working for medical technology groups worldwide. The products are already used in medical devices such as ventilators, respirators, protection masks, and laboratory automation.  

William Mason, managing director, said: “We have launched a ‘medical fast track’ process to ensure the best possible service for critical application needs. Our group management team reviews each request in real-time and matches the need with a solution, prioritizing manufacturing efforts globally to ensure product production and shipment to our medical essential customers is done rapidly.” 

Subsea UK is currently gathering intelligence on how other companies could support the fight against COVID-19, and on the dual impact of the virus and low oil prices on its 300 member companies.  

Neil Gordon, the association’s chief executive, said: “We’ve also been working closely with organizations such as OGUK [Oil and Gas UK] and the OGA [Oil and Gas Authority] to inform government of the specific economic challenges facing the sector and to seek clarity for subsea businesses on the measures in place to support them and on the guidance for them in continuing with critical operations.”