Coronavirus: Singapore plays vital role in making of Dyson ventilators being rushed out to save lives

A graphic representation of the CoVent ventilator attached to a hospital bed, designed by Dyson. PHOTO: DYSON

SINGAPORE - At the heart of a new ventilator designed by British technology company Dyson is its made-in-Singapore Dyson Digital Motor, originally designed for Dyson's cord-free vacuum cleaners and hand dryers.

Dyson, best known for its bladeless fans and bagless vacuum cleaners, is refocusing to produce the CoVent, a ventilator designed in 10 days, after a request from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson early last month.

The British government has placed an initial order of 10,000 ventilators with Dyson and the race is on for mass production.

From Swedish furniture company Ikea to American car manufacturers Ford Motor Company and General Motors to luxury fashion houses such as Italy's Prada and France's LVMH, global enterprises are stepping up and helping in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic - to produce everything from ventilators to face masks.

In Singapore, local gaming firm Razer recently announced plans to set up a facility here to make face masks to help ease the shortage of the product in South-east Asia.

Singapore plays a vital role in the making of the Dyson ventilators - the motors that power the new ventilators are now being manufactured by 300 robots 24/7 in Dyson's Singapore Advanced Manufacturing facility at West Park Bizcentral in Pioneer Crescent, Tuas.

The motors for the assembly into ventilators will be shipped to its Hullavington Airfield Campus, located in south-west England, in a former Royal Air Force base.

"The UK Government requested a design for a ventilator that was safe, effective, efficient in conserving oxygen, easy to use, bed-mounted, portable and not needing a fixed air supply," said Dyson's founder, Mr James Dyson, in a memo to staff shared with The Straits Times.

Dyson worked with British product development and medical consultancy The Technology Partnership, based in the north of London, in Hertfordshire county, to design and build the CoVent.

A close up of the manufacturing process behind the made-in-Singapore dyson digital motor. PHOTO: DYSON

The CoVent is designed to conserve oxygen and uses Dyson's air purifier expertise, which delivers a high quality of filtered, clean air.

"Hospitals are the front line in the war against Covid-19," said Mr Dyson.

"As with any battle, there are many challenges to overcome, not least the availability of essential equipment which, in this case, means ventilators," he added, noting that there is now a "significant shortage" of ventilators worldwide.

In the United States, American car manufacturers General Motors (GM) and Ford, as well as French manufacturer Renault and engineers from Formula 1 are joining the growing number of companies redesigning operations to build critical care ventilators.

Ford spokesman Michael Levine tells ST that Ford, in collaboration with GE Healthcare, expects to produce 50,000 ventilators within the next 100 days, with the ability to produce 30,000 a month thereafter as needed.

"Production of the GE/Airon Model A-E is targeted to start during the week of April 20 at Ford's Rawsonville, Michigan, components plant," said Mr Levine.

Swedish furniture giant Ikea earlier this week said in Stockholm that it will be producing face masks and other protective gear for hospitals. It first started producing face masks for its staff in China in the early stages of the pandemic, but is now working with suppliers to ramp up output of masks for health workers, as well as hand sanitisers, visors and single-use medical aprons. Most of Ikea's 436 stores worldwide are temporarily closed.

In Singapore, Ikea's two megastores in Tampines and Alexandra are open for business.

Its Singapore office is donating 1,000 towels to HealthServe, a local non-profit organisation for migrant workers, and has also been working with the Government on a business-to-business arrangement to fit out quarantine facilities, an Ikea spokesman said.

In the Philippines, Ikea fabric is being used for masks and distributed to marginalised communities; in Malaysia, the Swedish furniture retailer's outlets at shopping malls are doubling as collection sites to redistribute donations of essential items from pharmacies and mall tenants to hospitals and medical facilities.

Leading fashion houses such as Italian ready-to-wear brand Prada and French luxury giant LVMH, which owns French brands such as Louis Vuitton, are coming up with designs for surgical face masks and medical overalls instead of chic eyewear and evening gowns.

Prada announced last week that it will be producing 80,000 medical overalls and 110,000 masks in its factory in Montone in Umbria, Italy, to be shipped out by April 6.

LVMH said it will use factories normally reserved for its perfume and cosmetic brands such as Christian Dior and Givenchy to churn out hydroalcoholic antiviral gels for use as sanitisers to address a nationwide shortage in France.

"These gels will be delivered free of charge to the health authorities," LVMH said.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.