5 water engineering firms pivoting into Covid-19 supplies
Helping to close the gap on medical supplies
In an unprecedented global call to arms, companies around the world are pivoting in what appear to be philanthropic moves into manufacturing emergency equipment and supplies for the Covid-19 pandemic.
US electric car company Tesla, British technology firm Dyson and even Formula 1 teams are shifting into ventilator production, pushing through decisions that would usually take months, down to weeks and even days.
Other examples include breweries Anheuser-Busch, Diageo and even craft beer company Brewdog, which quickly moved into producing hand sanitiser to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Clearly, the ability to innovate and adapt is accelerated when teams put aside siloes to collaborate in such an unprecedented crisis. After all, necessity is the mother of invention.
With water continuously acknowledged as a critical service to prevent the spread of the disease, technology providers are also playing an important role: ensuring equipment is supplied to keep operations running optimally while facing challenging economic conditions with strained supply chains and decentralised teams.
However, many water companies are also contributing solutions to the pandemic. We take a look at five examples below.
Re-purposing pumps for ventilators
In addition to producing face shields, Xylem said it has re-purposed its Jabsco flow control pumps – normally used in the recreational boats and vehicles and food and pharmaceutical markets – for ventilators.
The design for the ventilators is complete, and the company said it is awaiting the go-ahead to deliver up to 30,000 units, pending approval from the relevant health ministry.
“Just as healthcare workers are on the front lines of critical care, water operators are on the front lines of infection prevention and control, making sure we’ve all got clean water and disinfected wastewater,” said Joe Vesey, senior VP and chief marketing officer at Xylem.
“So, our teams have been very focused on helping them keep their operations running and making sure there’s no interruption in water getting to every hospital and home.”
Vesey added: “Beyond that, our people have also been finding creative ways to re-purpose our technologies for healthcare applications – from face shields to ventilators.”
From pumps to 3D printed face shields
Danish pump giant Grundfos manufactured a medical face visor only 36 hours after a request from the Danish Medicines Agency.
The mask consists of a normal sheet of A4 foil attached to a plastic frame, which was 3D printed in the early stages of the project but now ready for production in a regular plastic tool.
The company reported it would be able to make 5,000 visors, or face shields, and is set to deliver 2,500 visors to a French hospital as well.
Grundfos will also join a taskforce coordinated by the Confederation of Danish Industry. Within this framework, several large Danish companies will develop parts for pharmaceutical equipment that may be missing from the Danish healthcare system.
“We have now received enquiries from 170 companies that will attempt to assist with protective and medical equipment,” said Lars Frelle Petersen, deputy director general of the confederation.
He added that while many private companies are already “squeezed by the crisis on liquidity and staffing”, they are stepping up.
Finding a CURA: converting shipping containers into ICU pods
Hospitals around the world grapple with the potential shortages of Intensive-Care Unit (ICU) space to treat a growing number of patients in need of respiratory care and ventilators.
The world looked eagerly upon China as armies of cranes and construction teams zigzagged to construct an entire hospital from the ground up in six days.
Meanwhile, the UK re-purposed its Excel exhibition centre into a hospital, and the US Naval Hospital Ship Comfort has been docked in New York to add 1,000 hospital beds to the city’s healthcare capacity.
To help address the increasing challenge, an international alliance including engineering consultancy Jacobs has started a project called Connected Units for Respiratory Ailments (CURA), which translates to “cure” in Latin.
Working in partnership with the World Economic Forum, the project is focused on turning shipping containers into plug-in ICU pods (video below).
These pods are hosted in a 20-foot intermodal container, each equipped with all necessary medical equipment to treat two Covid-19 intensive-care patients.
The pods have been designed and constructed to be quick to set up like hospital tents, with the safety of an isolation ward with biocontainment.
The first CURA unit will be built in Milan, Italy, where Jacobs’s teams are supporting with master planning, architectural design, construction and logistics support services.
Modular wastewater treatment to hand sanitiser
US modular wastewater treatment company Aquacycl has been working to make much-needed hand sanitiser as a temporary service for the Covid-19 response.
With investment from Growing Impact Ventures and individual angels, and ethanol from The California Spirits Company, Aquacycl will be providing 300 gallons to healthcare professionals throughout San Diego County.
On a LinkedIn update, the company said it is first and foremost a wastewater treatment company but recognised that it could use its manufacturing facilities to help.
“It is critical to continue supporting our community and our healthcare professionals in every way possible as they tirelessly fight this pandemic,” said Orianna Bretschger, CEO of Aquacycl.
Increasing output of air filtration units
US filtration company Pentair said it has mobilised to contribute “critical technologies” to help Covid-19 patients.
This includes increasing its output of air filtration components, designed to filter out bacteria and viruses in ventilators and other devices.
The filtration components comprise a two-way filtration system: hospital air is filtered on the breath in, ensuring filtered air for the patient; and then also filtered when a patient breathes out, ensuring filtered air for the healthcare workers.
This critical equipment is manufactured in accordance with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements.
“As we continue to navigate these circumstances, we are proud to be expanding Pentair’s role in fighting Covid-19,” said Dominik Elsaesser, VP of industrial filtration. “We will get through these challenging times together. Stay safe, healthy, and positive.”
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